New substances derived from cannabis are being used to tackle kidney failure linked to diabetes as part of a new research project.

Around 40% of people who have diabetes go on to develop kidney failure, also known as diabetic nephropathy.

The project, being led by the University of Aberdeen, is looking at whether synthetic cannabinoid compounds can help the kidneys respond better to insulin, the hormone everyone with type 1 diabetes needs to take to control their blood glucose levels.

More than three million people in the UK currently have diabetes and by 2025 the number is expected to rise to five million. By 2040 there will be 640 million across the world living with the condition, scientists estimate.

Researchers said active ingredients in the cannabis plant are already known to have beneficial effects for the treatment of a number of conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis.

They do this by acting on the body's own "endocannabinoid-system", made up of receptors named CB1 and CB2.

Those receptors are also found in the kidney cells, with CB1 levels increased in patients with kidney failure due to diabetes, and CB2 being down.

Dr Mirela Delibegovic, who leads the study, said: "New evidence suggests that to combat diabetes and its complications, we want to block CB1 receptors and activate CB2, and we think these novel compounds could allow us to do this.

"Diabetic nephropathy can lead to patients requiring dialysis or renal transplantation, therefore identifying if novel cannabinoid compounds can be used to ameliorate this disease is of upmost importance.

"There are already some cannabanoids used to treat inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, so these compounds could be taken relatively fast from benchside to bedside."

The research team in Aberdeen is collaborating with Bristol University, which has given them access to human cells from patients with kidney disease.

The study has been funded by Diabetes UK.

Details of the research have been released to coincide with World Diabetes Day on Saturday.