BRISTOL, England, Oct. 8 (UPI) — British researchers say they have a new explanation for why people with diabetes seem prone to kidney disease.
The study, published in Cell Metabolism, suggests insulin has a significant influence on the structure and proper function of a particular group of very specialized cells — known as podocytes — that are integral to the kidney’s ability to do its job filtering blood.
“We’ve found that when you lose insulin signaling in the podocytes, the filter is not maintained,” Richard Coward of the University of Bristol in England says in a statement. “Insulin action on the podocyte is really important to kidney function.”
Coward explains the toxic effects of high blood sugar may still play a role in diabetic kidney failure but the new findings suggest insulin resistance of podocytes is key. He suggests drugs designed to restore insulin sensitivity to podocytes may offer new treatments for the world’s most common cause of kidney failure.
Coward and colleagues studied mice lacking insulin receptors only in their podocytes. The mice had protein in their urine, along with other characteristics of diabetic kidney disease, despite the fact the animals weren’t diabetic and had normal blood sugar levels.
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