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Dr Elif Ekinci, and endocrinologist at Austin Health and a Senior Fellow at the University of Melbourne, was awarded the RACP-JDRF Research Establishment Fellowship in 2013. She speaks to us today about her research.

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My interest in type 1 diabetes grew from my practice as an endocrinologist, where I see many patients with this condition. I became interested in the development of kidney complications in type 1 diabetes, particularly in the context of pregnancy, which is an area that hasn’t received enough attention previously.

The RACP-JDRF Research Establishment Fellowship supported my research project which aimed to assess the effect that pregnancy has on kidney function in women with pre-existing type 1 diabetes.

Kidney disease is a serious complication of type 1 diabetes, and often there are no symptoms until the damage is quite advanced. The good news is that there are very effective treatments for kidney damage if it’s caught early enough, and so keeping track of kidney function is vitally important.

We found that the current methods we use to determine kidney function in pregnancy are not accurate enough, so we are trying to determine new, more accurate tests. One way of doing this is through identifying factors in the blood and urine that can be used as indicators of early kidney disease. If we can improve measurement of kidney function through these new techniques, we should be able to pick up damage early enough to be able to treat the problem and prevent more damage from occurring.

My research highlights the importance of providing improved pre-pregnancy counselling for women with type 1 diabetes, to help them understand just how important it is to be screened for kidney complications.

The RACP-JDRF Research Establishment Fellowship allowed me to pursue my own research interests. The next steps for my research are to identify the mechanisms that lead to diabetic kidney disease. If we can understand the pathways that play a role in kidney damage in type 1 diabetes, we may be able to devise treatment and prevention strategies.

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