Diabetic kidney disease is potentially one of the most life-altering and disabling long-term complications of diabetes. Because they tend to have diabetes for a longer duration than those with type 2, people with type 1 are at an especially high risk for developing kidney disease over time.
Previous studies have shown that in people with type 1 diabetes, higher uric acid levels in blood are associated with a higher risk of developing kidney disease. So for a study that was recently presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Nephrology, researchers looked at whether using a drug to lower uric acid levels had a beneficial effect on kidney disease.
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As noted in a press release from the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, the Preventing Early Renal Loss in Diabetes (PERL) study enrolled participants with type 1 diabetes and mild to moderate kidney disease at 16 different locations in the United States, Canada and Denmark. Participants were randomly assigned to take either allopurinol, a generic drug that lowers blood uric acid levels, or a placebo (inactive pill) for three years.
Even though participants who took allopurinol had sustained reductions in blood uric acid levels, this had no effect on slowing the progression of kidney disease. While these results are disappointing, they definitively answer an important scientific question, the researchers note in the press release. And while participants are no longer taking either allopurinol or placebo, they’ll continue to be monitored for any delayed effects from this intervention — and to look more broadly at how diabetic kidney disease develops over time, which could lead to new insights into factors that affect this process.
“We have an amazing biobank of samples that we collected during the study,” says study co-principal investigator Alessandro Doria, MD, PhD, MPH, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, in the press release. “One can correlate biomarkers measured in those samples with long-term health outcomes. The longer the follow-up, the more power there is in the study.”
A freelance health writer and editor based in Wisconsin, Phillips has a degree in government from Harvard University. He writes on a variety of topics, but is especially interested in the intersection of health and public policy.