Josephine's story

Preventing the onset of kidney disease in diabetic patients

An estimated 1.2 million (6%) of Australian adults aged 18 years and over had diabetes in 2017–18*.  

Diabetes can damage the kidney filters, leading to diabetic kidney disease. Around half of people who begin dialysis or require a transplant have end stage kidney disease caused by diabetes. The longer a person has diabetes, the more likely they are to develop kidney damage. Kidney damage is also an important risk factor for heart attacks, stroke and premature death in individuals with diabetes.

In the midst of a global diabetes pandemic, Professor Josephine Forbes from Mater Research is investigating the function of the kidney’s “power stations” in young people with diabetes and how this contributes to developing diabetic kidney disease so that effective therapies can be developed to prevent the onset and spread of kidney disease in people with diabetes.

“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,” Prof Forbes explains.

We know that young people aged 15-25 have evidence of dysfunction in these cell power stations but we may be able to detect this even earlier to start treatment to prevent kidney disease.”

“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.”

*Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW)

My research is focused on really trying to take the bull by the horns and preventing kidney disease from developing in the first place.

Professor Josephine Forbes, Mater Research