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New function for an old gene leads Mount Sinai researchers to possible therapy for kidney disease

August 13, 2013 (Toronto, ON) - A new finding by Mount Sinai Hospital researchers has the potential to slow the progression of kidney disease, one of the most serious complications for patients with diabetes. Researchers have found a protein associated with kidney disease which can potentially be targeted with drugs in early stages of the disease to prevent end-stage kidney failure.

Published today in Diabetes, the journal of the American Diabetes Association, the study was led by Dr. George Fantus, an endocrinologist at Mount Sinai Hospital’s Leadership Sinai Centre for Diabetes and a scientist at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute. The research team discovered a previously known protein named SRC (pronounced “sark”) is abnormally active in kidney cells that show early signs of this disease. The inappropriately active protein can lead to the build up of scar tissue, which diminishes the kidneys’ filtering ability to eliminate waste and excess fluid from the body.

The findings are especially important for diabetes patients, who are at much higher risk for kidney disease. Over the long term, high blood glucose levels damage tiny blood vessels in the kidney, impairing blood filtration.

“If we can prevent the progression of kidney disease early on, patients who are at risk are potentially saved the long-term burden of chronic kidney dialysis and transplantation,” explains Dr. George Fantus, who is also a Professor with the Departments of Medicine and Physiology at the University of Toronto.

There are currently no effective drug treatments available for patients with kidney disease. The abnormally active protein implicated in this study has previously been linked to cancer, so there are opportunities to test drugs initially targeted to this protein’s function in tumours, now in the treatment of kidney disease.

The study was funded in part by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Canadian Diabetes Association.

Quick Facts

• According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), one in three people with kidney failure has diabetes.
• According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, about one-third of people who have had diabetes for more than 15 years will develop kidney disease.
• Kidney failure can also result in substantial costs to the health care system. For example, CIHI’s estimated cost for dialysis treatment is approximately $60,000 per patient, per year of treatment. A one-time cost for a kidney transplant is approximately $23,000 plus $6,000 for necessary annual medication to maintain the transplant.
• Mount Sinai Hospital’s Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute ranks #1 by citations world-wide for diabetes research compared to other medical research institutes.

About The Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute

Established in 1985, the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute of Mount Sinai Hospital is one of the world's leading centres for biomedical research. The Institute is part of Mount Sinai Hospital, an internationally recognized academic health science centre affiliated with the University of Toronto. Research at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum is focused on women’s and infants’ health, cancer biology, stem cell biology, neurobiology, diabetes, arthritis, genetic disorder research and systems biology. The Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum’s internationally recognized and award winning researchers continue to make leading-edge discoveries in the prevention, detection and treatment of cancer, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, psychiatric disorders, kidney disease, women’s and infants’ health, inflammatory bowel disease, and spinal cord injury. For more information, please visit www.lunenfeld.ca

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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Sandeep Dhaliwal
Communications Specialist, Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute at Mount Sinai Hospital
416-586-4800 ext. 2046
dhaliwal@lunenfeld.ca