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Targeting 15

Targeting 15

October 2002

It is invisible to the naked eye and hidden from the minds of many scientists. But Kusum Bhandari, M.D., and a team of scientists have found it: the region of a chromosome linked to kidney disease in diabetics.

Dr. Bhandari is an assistant professor of medicine and the recent recipient of three research awards for young investigators. Her work may have major implications for millions of diabetic patients.

The disease has reached near epidemic proportions in the United States, striking an estimated 15.7 million people. It is the number one cause
of kidney failure.

But Dr. Bhandari has identified a region on chromosome 15 linked to albuminuria, or protein leakage from the kidneys. Albuminuria is a marker and predictor of kidney disease resulting from diabetes. It also is a predictor of death due to heart attacks in both diabetic and non-diabetic patients.

"Identifying the gene will help us target the population most at risk for developing kidney disease from diabetes," Dr. Bhandari said. "Then we can focus on prevention measures and new ways of treating the disease."

The sooner the better. Almost 400,000 Americans are currently on dialysis. Diabetes caused kidney failure in 40 percent of those patients. "The incidence of kidney failure is much higher in the Mexican-American diabetic population," Dr. Bhandari said. "This is a major problem. Because San Antonio has such a high concentration of Hispanics, this is the right place to study it."

Dr. Bhandari is on staff with the South Texas Veterans Health Care System. She will complete her research with funding from the Veterans Administration Research Career Development Award, a Veterans Integrated Service Network grant and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute New Faculty award. "I am very fortunate to have the expert guidance of Dr. H.E. Abboud and the collaboration of the epidemiology group, including Dr. M.P. Stern, Dr. R. Duggirala and many other scientists who contributed to this work," Dr. Bhandari said.



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