Diabetes Drug and Polycystic Kidney Disease

It’s well known that there’s a relationship between kidney disease and diabetes, but usually that connection is thought of as a causal one. That is, people with diabetes are at higher risk of developing kidney disease, because high glucose levels and high blood pressure can damage the kidneys. But now researchers from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, along with fellow researchers from the Mayo Clinic, have uncovered a connection between the two that’s a bit more positive.

Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) is somewhat different from other types of kidney disease in that it is caused by genetic factors. These lead to the growth of cysts in the kidneys, gradually reducing kidney function. But the researchers have now discovered that pioglitazone, a substance that treats diabetes by making the body more sensitive to insulin, does other things as well. One of those is to inhibit what is called a “chloride channel.”

This made the researchers sit up and take notice, since excessive chloride and water, which helps kidney cysts expand and multiply, is a characteristic of PKD. Pioglitazone is already approved for use for other conditions, and has a “good safety profile,” according to researcher Bonnie L. Blazer-Yost. This drug may be just what is needed to treat PKD and stop cyst progression, because at the moment, there are few other options for treating PDK.

Blazer-Yost and her other colleagues have published their paper in the online medical journal, PPAR Research. They hope that human trials for the use of this drug on PKD can be conducted in the not-too-distant future. It could mean real hope for effective treatment for many who have no other realistic hope at the moment.

(Further reading: Medical News Today, November 15, 2010)

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