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Adelaide researchers from the Centre for Cancer Biology (CCB) have discovered for the first time a protein previously linked to controlling blood pressure also prevents salt-induced kidney disease.

Leading this potentially life-changing research is Professor Sharad Kumar with Research Fellows Dr Jantina Manning and Dr Tanya Henshall who are hoping their discovery could lead to a new way of targeting kidney disease to prevent it from affecting more Australians in the future.

“We have identified a protein that protects the kidneys against salt-induced kidney damage. It does this by controlling the activity of a channel through which salt re-enters the blood stream following filtration by kidney,” Tanya explains.

“We discovered that when this protein is not present there is a greater amount of this channel which ultimately means more salt is entering into the body and this leads to kidney disease,” she added.

“If we block this channel with medication, we can in fact reduce the likelihood of kidney damage.”

Professor Sharad Kumar with other members of the Molecular Regulation Laboratory at Centre for Cancer Biology
Professor Sharad Kumar with other members of the Molecular Regulation Laboratory at Centre for Cancer Biology

High salt consumption is common in a modern diet, and with the knowledge that this could give rise to kidney damage, Tanya and Jantina are now working to better understand this protein and how it could be targeted to prevent kidney damage from occurring.

“It may not be that a person is missing this protein, but rather has a mutation in it that means it’s not functioning properly. There is evidence that mutations in this protein relate to hypertension, and we now think that such mutations may also be contributing to kidney damage in some patients. By targeting this protein and its downstream events, we could treat the kidney damage in these patients,” Jantina said.

Knowing that 1 in 10 people currently have chronic kidney disease, with many unaware they are living with it, this discovery could improve outcomes for many living with the debilitating disease in the future.

“This discovery really opens up so many more avenues for further research in the fight for a cure for kidney disease,” Tanya said.

“Whilst we are in the early stages of this work, there are options for treatments in the future, including looking at avenues of using drugs that are already out there,” Jantina said.

“There is also the potential for the development of new medications in the future once we better understand the mechanisms involved,” Tanya added.

With current kidney disease patients only having dialysis or a transplant available to them, this innovative research could open up a new treatment and ultimately save more lives from this debilitating disease.

Please donate to the Centre for Cancer Biology and support groundbreaking research like this.

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