Professor Josephine Forbes: preventing kidney disease in patients with diabetes

Thursday 08 March 2018

Professor Josephine Forbes was awarded a Mater Research Strategic Grant for Outstanding Women on International Women’s Day.

 “There is a global diabetes pandemic and as a consequence of diabetes, about a third of patients develop cardiovascular and kidney disease. We’ve recently discovered that this starts much earlier than previously appreciated. My research is looking at young people aged 10-15 or 15-25 to see if they already have evidence of kidney disease.

“We’re particularly interested in the function of ‘cell power stations’ which are called mitochondria. They work a bit like a power plant to make energy from our food and are highly expressed in kidneys. Our kidneys are really important – they filter our blood and keep our blood pressure constant. We believe that young people may already have evidence of dysfunction in these power plants, and if they do, there is a therapy we are looking to use which is already in Iate stage clinical trials for other treatments. The grant allows us to look at this younger age group and to verify the treatment options in regards to dosages and how often and when we give it.

“Comparing the two different age groups will show us how early we can start the therapy. We know at 15-25 they have the dysfunction but we may be able to see this in 10-15 year olds and start treatment earlier to prevent progression.

“At least 30-40 per cent of these patients will get kidney or cardiovascular disease which shortens their life.  They may end up on dialysis, have an early heart attack, lose their feet or go blind and we really want to do something about it. It really impacts so many things. This is really trying to take the bull by the horns and preventing it developing in the first place.”