University of Galway trial finds cell therapy slows kidney damage in people with type 2 diabetes

The damage to kidneys resulting from type 2 diabetes was slowed in promising trials of a cell therapy held in Galway, Belfast and the UK.

he results emerged from promising clinical trials with people with diabetes and advanced kidney disease received ORBCEL-M cell therapy, as reported this month at the American Society of Nephrology’s Kidney Week.

“We were focused on that group of people who have type 2 diabetes, are known to have diabetic kidney disease, and we have evidence from their clinical records that it is getting worse, despite current best therapy,” said Professor Matt Griffin, of the Regenerative Medicine Institute at the University of Galway and one of the leading researchers on the trial.

“Our best practice at the moment can certainly slow down the progression of kidney disease in most people who are treated, but will not stop it completely,” said Prof Griffin, explaining the rationale behind the trials.

There are an estimated 450 million people with diabetes globally, and 30-40pc of those are believed to have chronic kidney disease, Prof Griffin said.

The fatality rate for those people with diabetes who require kidney dialysis is approximately 40pc within two years, he said, and while kidney transplantation offers a better life expectancy for those with end-stage kidney disease, the supply of donor kidneys falls far short of the demand.

As well as damaging the kidney, diabetic kidney disease greatly increases people’s risk for heart disease and blood vessel disease.

The trial, which as conceived at the University of Galway and co-ordinated by the Mario Negri Institute in Milan, involved one group of patients receiving the cell therapy, and comparing them to a group who received a placebo. A placebo is a treatment that appears real, but has no therapeutic effect.

The blood of both groups was monitored over 18 months.

Over this time, the decline in kidney function was less severe in those who had the therapy.

The kidney function in patients receiving cell therapy and the placebo was measured by looking at levels of creatinine, a waste product.

The healthier the kidney, the better it will be able to filter creatinine, as waste, out of the body.

“The observation we’ve reported and are cautiously excited by is that when we separated them out into the placebo group, and the cell-receiving patients, then the placebo-receiving patients had a quicker rate of kidney decline during the follow-up period than cell-treated patients,” Prof Griffin said.

The scientists are planning a further trial.