Case Study

Predicting the risk of kidney disease in people living with diabetes

DNZRF supports NZ researchers to make medical breakthroughs

In the late 1980s an international research storyline was emerging, showing that high albumin levels (a protein made by the liver) in the urine could help predict patients living with diabetes who might develop kidney disease in the future. If patients at risk of kidney disease could be identified early, they could be started on kidney protection medications.

Medical registrar, Dr Helen Lunt decided to look onto this further, to understand the prevalence and prognostic significance of increased levels of urinary albumin production in New Zealand. Her focus was on looking for ethnic differences in urinary albumin.

With the help of a one-year medical fellowship salary from DNZRF, Dr Lunt produced outstanding research which has helped inform larger scale studies in Aotearoa. It also facilitated the rapid development of the idea that the presence of elevated levels of albumin in the urine is an important, modifiable risk factor in Māori and Pasifika diabetes communities.

Dr Lunt now works as an endocrinologist at Christchurch Hospital and sits on the DNZRF board, helping give other New Zealand researchers opportunities to carry out important studies.