New Algorithm Predicts Diabetic Kidney Disease 2023

Sanford Burnham Prebys and the Chinese University of Hong Kong devised a computer method to predict if type 2 diabetics may develop renal disease, a common and deadly consequence. Their Nature Communications findings may help doctors prevent or treat type 2 diabetes-related kidney damage.

“This study provides a glimpse into the powerful future of predictive diagnostics,” says co-senior author Kevin Yip, Ph.D., Sanford Burnham Prebys professor and director of Bioinformatics.

“Our team has shown that by combining clinical data with cutting-edge technology, computational models can help clinicians optimize type 2 diabetes treatment to prevent kidney disease.”

Diabetes causes most kidney failure worldwide. Diabetes causes 44% of US end-stage renal damage and dialysis. Asia’s 50%.

Predicting Diabetic Nephropathy with a New Algorithm

“There has been significant progress developing treatments for kidney disease in diabetics,” says co-senior author Ronald Ma, MB BChir, FRCP, a professor in the Chinese University of Hong Kong Department of Medicine and Therapeutics.

“However, it can be difficult to assess an individual patient’s risk for developing kidney disease based on clinical factors alone, so determining who is at greatest risk of diabetic kidney disease is an important clinical need.”

DNA methylation—subtle alterations in our DNA—is measured by the new method. Blood tests can easily evaluate DNA methylation, which encodes gene activity.

“Our computational model can use methylation markers from a blood sample to predict both current kidney function and how the kidneys will function years in the future,” adds Yip.

The Hong Kong Diabetes Register provided data for the researchers’ model. They also tested their algorithm on 326 Native Americans with type 2 diabetes to ensure it could predict kidney damage in various cultures.

“This study highlights the unique strength of the Hong Kong Diabetes Register and its huge potential to fuel further discoveries to improve our understanding of diabetes and its complications,” says study co-author Juliana Chan, M.D., FRCP, a professor in the Department of Medicine and Therapeutics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, who founded the register over two decades ago.

First author Kelly Yichen Li, Ph.D., a Sanford Burnham Prebys postdoctoral scientist, calls the Hong Kong Diabetes Register a research treasure. “They follow patients for many years, which gives us a full picture of how diabetes can change human health over decades.”

Researchers are refining their model. They are also applying this technique to other health and disease problems, such as why certain cancer patients don’t react to specific therapies.

“The science is still evolving, but we are working on incorporating additional information into our model to empower precision medicine in diabetes,” says Ma.

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