New therapies on horizon for chronic kidney disease

BAR HARBOR — Hermann Haller, president of the MDI Biological Laboratory, will discuss diabetes and kidney disease at a public lecture Monday, Feb. 11 at 5 p.m. at the institution’s Old Bar Harbor Road campus.

“The increased prevalence of diabetes is causing an epidemic of chronic kidney disease (CKD) that is creating a huge burden on patients, families and the healthcare system,” event organizers said. “Indeed, the federal government spends more on kidney dialysis than on NASA, the Department of Energy or the National Institutes of Health.

“In 2015, the latest year for which statistics are available, Medicare spent $34 billion on the procedure to mechanically cleanse the blood of patients whose kidneys have failed — more than that year’s budgets for any of these federal agencies. This enormous healthcare burden is driving initiatives to develop new therapies.”

Haller, a nephrologist, or kidney specialist, will discuss diabetes as a risk factor for CKD and end-stage renal disease (ESRD); current treatment options; recent advances, including the contributions of the MDI Biological Laboratory and efforts to address the limitations of current therapies — dialysis and kidney transplant — through the development of artificial organs.

About 30 percent of patients with Type 1 (juvenile onset) diabetes and 10 to 40 percent of those with Type 2 (adult onset) diabetes eventually will suffer from kidney failure, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Because the signs of CKD are so subtle, it often goes undiagnosed until it reaches advanced stages.

“The limited treatment options for chronic kidney disease take a huge toll on patients and their families,” Haller said. “Dialysis is expensive and time-consuming, and transplants are only available to those fortunate enough to receive donor organs. Thankfully, science is making genuine progress in developing new therapies.”

Thirty million adult Americans (15 percent of the adult population) have CDK, according to the DHS. Of these, 680,000 are on dialysis, and tens of thousands are on the waiting list to receive a transplant. The increased incidence of CKD is being driven by the prevalence of diabetes, which is at an all-time high in the United States.

While Maine has a lower-than-average incidence of diabetes, ranking thirty-first among the 50 states, the disease still exacts an enormous toll. The cost of diabetes in Maine is estimated at $1.6 billion annually and it accounted for about 43 percent of new cases of ESRD in 2008, according to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

MDI Science Cafés are offered in fulfillment of the institution’s mission to promote scientific literacy and increase public engagement with science. The popular events offer a chance to hear directly from speakers about trends in science. Short presentations delivered in everyday language are followed by lively, informal discussion.

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