According to a recent article in EurekaAlert, researchers at the University of Boston recently published their new study investigating ROBO2. The ROBO2 signaling pathway has emerged as a therapeutic target for glomerular diseases and kidney podocyte injury that leads to glomerulosclerosis (hardening or scarring of tiny blood vessels in the kidney).
Podocytes are cells that form a barrier that filters blood in the kidney’s glomerulus. Glomeruli, which are capillary blood vessels in the kidney, participate in the filtering of the blood to form urine.
The kidney podocytes are essential for the maintenance of the kidney glomerular filtering system and the regular functioning of the kidney.
About Chronic Kidney Disease
It is estimated that thirty-seven million individuals living in the U.S. are impacted by kidney disease. Another estimate includes over eight hundred fifty million people in other parts of the world.
Many of these individuals who have chronic kidney disease will eventually experience kidney failure. These individuals will require dialysis or possibly kidney transplantation.
The Boston University study of the ROBO2 pathway represents a “first” for linkage to glomerular diseases. One disease being analyzed is membranous nephropathy that affects filters.
Membranous nephropathy is a kidney disease that affects kidney filters, (glomeruli) and can cause protein in the urine, a decrease in kidney function, and swelling.
Results of the Study
The Boston University researchers found that two experimental models that were podocyte injury induced but without ROBO2, were protected against kidney injury.
On the other hand, the models who had the ROBO2 gene plus kidney injury developed serious kidney damage.
The researchers also discovered that elevated levels of the ROBO2 protein caused a reduction of podocyte adhesion.
Dr. Weining Lu, a co-author of the study, commented that ROBO2 may be a suitable target for new drugs in connection with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), membranous nephropathy, and similar glomerular disorders.
FSGS, a common cause of kidney failure, is characterized by the formation of scar tissue on the part of the kidney that removes waste from the blood (glomeruli). Currently, there is no cure.
The study, conducted by Dr. Lu and his team together with Pfizer, led to a substance that targets the ROBO2 pathway. The compound is now being investigated for kidney disease in a phase 2 trial.
Dr. Lu commented further that this study may lead to newer treatments that will allow patients to avoid kidney transplantation or dialysis and enjoy an improved quality of life.
Additional information may be found online in the American Journal of Pathology.