Blood Metabolite Levels May Help Identify Diabetic Kidney Disease

Noninvasive measurement may provide alternative to diagnostic kidney biopsy

Charlottesville, Va. (June 24, 2019)—Metabolomics, the study of small molecules the body produces during metabolism (metabolites) may be a future key to identifying diabetes-related kidney disease. The finding will be presented today at the American Physiological Society (APS)/American Society of Nephrology (ASN) conference, Control of Renal Function in Health and Disease, in Charlottesville, Va.

Diabetes-related kidney disease is a common complication associated with type 2 diabetes. Diagnosis typically requires surgical biopsy of the kidney, “therefore, seeking noninvasive biomarkers to aid diagnosis and management is urgently needed,” wrote researchers from Nanfang Hospital of Southern Medical University in China and University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

The research team studied metabolites in the blood of three groups of adults with diabetes.

  • One group had type 2 diabetes without kidney disease.
  • One group had early-stage diabetes-related kidney disease.
  • One group had advanced diabetes-related kidney disease.

The three groups were compared with healthy adults without diabetes. Using a current database containing numerous known metabolites, the researchers identified only seven metabolites shared among all the groups. Although all the volunteers had the same differentially expressed metabolites, the metabolites varied according to whether or not they had diabetes or early- and late-stage kidney disease.

“Surprising differences in small-molecule metabolites may reflect underlying [diabetes-related kidney disease] and serve as biomarkers for [its] occurrence and development,” the researchers wrote. These results may help “establish an early warning system for [type 2 diabetes] patients to monitor the onset of [diabetes-related kidney disease] in the clinic setting,” said Dong Zhou, MD, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and co-author of the study.

Haiyan Fu, MD, PhD, of Nanfang Hospital of Southern Medical University in China, and Dong Zhou, MD, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, will present “Metabolomics reveals signature of diabetic kidney disease” in the session “Renal Consequences of Obesity, Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes” on Monday, June 24, at the Boar’s Head Resort.

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: The APS/ASN Control of Renal Function in Health and Disease conference will be held June 23–27 in Charlottesville, Va. To schedule an interview with the conference organizers or presenters, contact the APS Communications Office or call 301-634-7314. Find more research highlights in the APS News Room.

Physiology is the study of how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function in health and disease.Established in 1887, the American Physiological Society (APS) was the first U.S. society in the biomedical sciences field. The Society represents more than 10,000 members and publishes 15 journals with a worldwide readership.

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