Breakthrough in treatment of kidney failure

March 13th, 2008 - 3:44 pm ICT by admin  

Washington, March 13 (IANS) Wrong signalling to cells may play a vital role in two kidney problems that are likely to cause end-stage renal disease. These findings by Einstein College of Medicine researchers open up a novel approach for treating kidney failure. They have been described in the March issue of Nature Medicine.

Kidneys filter waste products from the blood with the help of capillary tufts known as glomeruli and maintain fluid balance by producing urine.

Damaged glomeruli are unable to perform the filtering function, causing kidneys to deteriorate into end-stage renal disease, necessitating dialysis or a transplant.

Einstein College scientists led by Katalin Susztak focussed on cells known as podocytes lining the glomeruli. Since dysfunction of podocytes cells is a factor in progressive kidney disease, and since a cell-signalling pathway called Notch is crucial in podocyte development, they reasoned that aberrant Notch might play a role in causing kidney disease.

The Notch signalling pathway plays a key role in embryonic development of humans and most other multi-cellular organisms. The Notch pathway tells some cells to proliferate and others to undergo programmed cell death as it profoundly affects the way tissues are organized.

Faulty Notch signalling has been found in several types of cancer and in many other diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

Collectively, the observations made in the Einstein College study offer strong evidence that aberrant Notch signalling is also involved in diabetic nephropathy (DNP) and focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) - two of the major causes of end-stage renal disease.

When comparing biopsy samples from healthy kidneys and kidneys from people with DNP and FSGS, the researchers found evidence that the Notch pathway was active in diseased but not in healthy kidneys.

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