Kidney stones strike an estimated 1 million Americans each year, and those who have experienced the excruciating pain say it is among the worst known to man (or woman).
Now, new research by scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis provides evidence to explain why some people are more prone to develop the condition than others. Their discovery opens the door to finding effective drug treatments and a test that could assess a person's risk of kidney stones.
"Now, we finally have a more complete picture detailing why some people develop kidney stones and others do not," says senior author Jianghui Hou, PhD, assistant professor of medicine. "With this information, we can begin to think about better treatments and ways to determine a person's risk of the condition, which typically increases with age."
The research, in mice, is now available online in the EMBO Journal, published by the European Molecular Biology Organization.
Because kidneys function the same way in mice as in humans, the new findings can help scientists understand the root causes of kidney stones in patients. The mouse model used in the study can also serve as a platform for the preclinical testing of novel treatments for the condition, the researchers say.
Most kidney stones form when the urine becomes too concentrated, allowing minerals like calcium to crystallize and stick together. Diet plays a role in the condition not drinking enough water or eating too much salt (which binds to calcium) also increases the risk of stones.
But genes are partly to blame. A common genetic variation in a gene called claudin-14 recently has been linked to a substantial increase in risk roughly 65 percent of getting kidney stones. In the new study, the researchers have shown how alterations in the gene's activity influence the development of stones.
Typically, the claudin-14 gene is not active in the kidney. The
|Contact: Caroline Arbanas|
Washington University School of Medicine