Researchers determine key genetic adjustments in interstitial kidney tissue of individuals with diabetes


Indiana University researchers have identified important genetic changes in interstitial kidney tissue in people with diabetes. This discovery shows the potential for a revolutionary new genetic approach to treating kidney disease. They will contribute their results to the Kidney Precision Medicine Project (KPMP) “Cell Atlas”, a series of maps used to classify and localize different cell types and structures in the kidney.

They shared their groundbreaking results in a study published in Science Advances on February 10, 2021.

In the study, researchers examined the kidney tissue of healthy people and people with diabetes using a technique called “regional transcriptomics”. This technique involves rapidly staining kidney tissue and then using a laser to cut out microscopic areas of interest.

They found that when a scar forms on the interstitium, important genes change, said Dr. Daria Barwinska, lead study author and research fellow at the Indiana University School of Medicine Department of Medicine.

The interstitium is the “glue” that holds the kidney together. It’s one of the least characterized parts of the kidney, but scars in the interstitium caused by diseases like diabetes can lead to kidney disease. “

Daria Barwinska, study director

Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) and Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) affect millions of people in the US and worldwide. However, there are no effective therapies for AKI and only a few are available for CRF. The KPMP, a multi-site project focused on understanding and finding new treatments for AKI and CKD, seeks to bring treatment for these disorders “into the molecular era,” said Dr. Michael Eadon.

IU is one of the many KPMP “tissue interrogation” centers across the country. These locations work together and bring state-of-the-art technology to support the retrieval of human kidney biopsies.

“Many diseases can look the same under the microscope, but their causes are very different,” said Eadon, the study’s author and assistant professor of medicine in the medical division of the IU School of Medicine. “We want to understand how different genes contribute to very common kidney diseases.”

This study could usher in the era of new and better treatments for millions of people with AKI and CRF.

“A personalized medical approach that understands how different diseases affect a patient’s genes helps identify possible treatments for kidney disease,” said Barwinska. “This approach can meet the needs of every single patient.”


Indiana University School of Medicine

Journal reference:

Barwinska, D. et al. (2021) Molecular characterization of the human kidney interstitium in health and disease. Advances in science.