Diabetes is the leading cause of end-stage kidney disease worldwide, an illness that requires either kidney dialysis treatments or a kidney transplant for survival. //
A research team at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and the University of Heidelberg has proven that a gene protects some people with diabetes from developing severe kidney failure or "end-stage renal disease."
The carnosinase 1 gene, located on human chromosome 18, produces the protective factor, said Barry I. Freedman, M.D., the John H. Felts III Professor and head of the Section on Nephrology, in an article in Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation published online.
"This is a major gene that appears to be associated with development of severe diabetic kidney disease," he said.
The research team evaluated 858 subjects, including diabetic patients with end-stage kidney failure on dialysis, diabetic patients with normal kidney function, and healthy non-diabetic individuals. They confirmed that a protective form of the carnosinase 1 gene was present in greater frequency among both healthy individuals and diabetic subjects without kidney disease, compared to the diabetic patients on dialysis who more commonly had forms of the gene that were not protective.
This discovery may lead to novel treatment strategies in susceptible diabetic patients to protect them from kidney failure and may provide a marker to determine which diabetic patients are at increased risk for future kidney disease, Freedman said.
The carnosinase 1 gene produces an enzyme called carnosinase. Carnosinase inactivates the protective substance carnosine. Carnosine appears to prevent scarring from developing in kidney tissue and serves as a scavenger of damaging oxygen-free radicals.
"Prior to these genetic analyses, kidney doctors were unaware that this pathway played an important role in diabetic kidney disease," Freedman said.
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