Transformative Research in Diabetic Nephropathy

Conditions:Diabetic Neuropathy, Renal Impairment / Chronic Kidney Disease
Therapuetic Areas:Endocrinology, Nephrology / Urology
Age Range:18 - 100
Start Date:December 2016
End Date:July 2020
Contact:Raymond R Townsend, MD

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Transformative Research In DiabEtic NephropaThy

This is a prospective, observational, cohort study of patients with a clinical diagnosis of
diabetes who are undergoing clinically indicated kidney biopsy. The intent is to collect,
process, and study kidney tissue and to harvest blood, urine and genetic materials to
elucidate molecular pathways and link them to biomarkers that characterize those patients
have a rapid decline in kidney function (> 5 mL/min/1.73m2/year) from those with lesser
degrees of kidney function change over the period of observation. High through-put genomic
analysis associated with genetic and biomarker testing will serve to identify key potential
therapeutic targets for DKD by comparing patients with rapid and slow progression patterns.
Each participating clinical site will search for, consent, harvest the biopsy sample, and
enroll the participants as required for the TRIDENT protocol.

Progress in the area of diabetic kidney research leading to new therapeutics development has
been very limited. Indeed, no new medicines indicated for the treatment of chronic kidney
disease (CKD) have been approved since ARB's have become standard of care nearly 15 years
ago. Several factors explain the limited progress including but not limited to; a) animal and
cell culture models do not recapitulate human DKD b) human genetic studies so far have failed
to identify reproducible genetic variants associated with DKD c) the clinical manifestation
of DKD is heterogeneous and might have even changed since the original description d) DKD is
a clinical diagnosis and it is not clear what percentage of patients have histological

Laboratory mice have served as invaluable tools to understand human disease development. As
mouse genetic tools became readily available, it enabled us to perform time and cell type
specific gene manipulation in animals to generate disease models and to understand the
contributions of specific pathways. Unfortunately, mouse models do not recapitulate human
diabetic kidney disease as animals develop only early DKD lesions; mesangial expansion and
mild albuminuria11. Most models do not develop arterial hyalinosis, tubulointerstitial
fibrosis and declining glomerular filtration rate (GFR); hallmarks of progressive DKD. There
are several fundamental differences in gene expression patterns and physiology of human and
murine kidneys. Such differences may explain the lack of translatability between mice and
humans of pharmacological approaches aimed at treating DKD. This seems to be a general trend
in other disease areas as well (for example Alzheimer's disease), leading to a recent
movement toward translational and clinical research with increasing reliance on human

Human genetic studies made paradigm-shifting observations in relatively rare monogenic forms
of kidney diseases (including polycystic kidney disease and focal segmental
glomerulosclerosis). Diabetic CKD on the other hand follows a complex polygenic pattern.
Currently, the most powerful method to define the genetics of complex diseases such as DKD is
genome wide association (GWAS), where associations between polymorphisms and the disease
state are tested. Prior studies indicate that for complex traits, such as DKD, genetic
polymorphisms that are associated with disease state are localized to the non-coding region
of the genome12,13. Moreover, the genetic architecture of diabetic kidney disease has not
been characterized and several large collaborations are currently addressing this issue14.
Thus, the next challenge is to define target genes, target cell types and the mode of
dysregulation caused by non-coding snips (SNPs15). Such studies require large collection of
human tissue samples from disease relevant organs.

Diabetic kidney disease (DKD) remains a clinical diagnosis. Subjects with CKD in the presence
of diabetes and albuminuria are considered to have diabetic nephropathy. Such definition is
used in clinical practice and in research studies including clinical trials. Studies
performed in 1980 provide the basis for the practice16,17. Investigators stage DKD as a
progressive disease, beginning with the loss of small amounts of albumin into the urine
(30-300mg/day; known as the stage of microalbuminuria, high albuminuria, occult or incipient
nephropathy), then larger amounts (>300mg/day; known as macroalbuminuria, very high
albuminuria or overt nephropathy), followed by progressive decline in kidney function (eGFR),
renal impairment and ultimately ESRD 17-19. This paradigm has proved useful in clinical
studies, especially in type 1 diabetes, for identifying cohorts at increased risk of adverse
health outcomes. However, boundaries between stages of DKD are artificial and the
relationship between urinary albumin excretion and adverse health outcomes is log-linear in
clinical practice. Indeed, the American Diabetes Association recently abandoned staging of
albuminuria (ACR) for a more-straightforward [ACR >30 mg/g, (albuminuria present); ACR <30
mg/g (albuminuria absent)] criterion. Moreover, many patients, and especially those with type
2 diabetes, do not follow this classical course in modern clinical practice. For example,
many subjects with DKD do not manifest excessive urinary albumin loss20. Indeed, of the 28%
of the UKPDS cohort who developed moderate to severe renal impairment, half did not have
preceding albuminuria. In the Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT), of the 11%
patients with type 1 diabetes who developed an eGFR<60 ml/min/1.73m2, 40% never had
experienced overt nephropathy21. In addition, most patients with microalbuminuria do not
progressively exhibit an increase in urinary albumin excretion as in the classical paradigm
with treatment-induced and spontaneous 'remission' of albuminuria widely observed22,23.
Consequently, individuals with microalbuminuria may better be regarded as being at increased
risk of developing progressive renal disease (as well as cardiovascular disease and other
diabetic complications), rather than as actually having DKD per se. While over the last 40
years it became evident that the original description of DKD needs revision, no alternative
criteria have emerged given the lack of solid data on the correlation between
histopathological (gold standard) DKD diagnosis and clinical manifestations. It is also
possible that, with the introduction of better glycemic control and anti-renin (RAAS)
blockade, the disease has evolved necessitating new observational cohorts to understand the
clinical disease course and manifestations.

Diabetic kidney disease presents with a variable rate of kidney function decline24. Data from
large observational cohorts indicate that GFR decline frequently does not follow a linear
course. Several groups are working on modeling GFR decline patterns in patients. Such studies
contributed to emphasizing patients termed as "rapid progressors". There is no consensus
definition for rapid progression. Many studies define rapid progressors as patients with
greater than 3 cc/year GFR decrease but alternative cut points such as even 10 cc/year has
also been used. Identification and clinical characterization of rapid progressors became the
center of several large scale efforts as these are the patients who would likely need
intensive clinical management25. Furthermore recent post-hoc analyses of the Diabetic
Nephropathy (IDNT and RENAAL) studies indicate that clinical trial outcomes are mostly driven
by a small number of subjects with unusually rapidly progressive GFR decline i.e. subjects
that display characteristics of rapid progressors. While investigators are still awaiting
accurate descriptions, biomarker and clinical descriptive studies have yielded several
interesting observations. Albuminuria remains one of the strongest risk factor for
"FDA-approved" (hard) renal outcomes; doubling of serum creatinine, dialysis or death. Indeed
some of the latest studies indicate that using a 4 or a 6 variable model, that includes
albuminuria, age, sex, serum phosphate, serum calcium and serum albumin has C-statistics
score of 0.84-0.91 to predict ESRD 26,27. During the last years several new biomarkers have
been identified that can potentially identify patients who are at increased risk for rapid
loss of kidney function. For example blood and urinary levels of kidney injury molecule
(KIM1) shows promise to identify patients who are at risk for kidney function decline.
Recently, investigators showed that circulating levels of tumor necrosis factor receptor 1
and 2 levels can identify patients with rapidly declining renal function 28. While these
markers are generating increased interest; the critical questions remains; why do some
patients follow a rapid decline in kidney function?

Inclusion Criteria:

- Type 1 and 2 Diabetes by American Diabetes Association (ADA) criteria

- Willingness to comply with study requirements, including intention to fully
participate in protocol-specified follow-up at a clinical study site

- Able to provide informed consent

- Adult participants

- Planned medically indicated kidney biopsy, prescribed by a practicing nephrologist

Exclusion Criteria:

- End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), defined as chronic dialysis or kidney transplant

- History of receiving dialysis for more than 30 days prior to biopsy

- Institutionalized

- Solid organ or bone marrow transplant recipient at time of first kidney biopsy

- Less than 3-year life expectancy

- History of active alcohol and/or substance abuse that in the investigator's assessment
would impair the subject's ability to comply with the protocol

- Unable to provide informed consent

- Evidence of active cancer requiring treatment, other than non-melanoma skin cancer
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