New research shows that there may be new treatment options for chronic kidney disease

New researches show that there may be new treatment options for chronic kidney disease

New researches show that there may be new treatment options for chronic kidney disease

Research suggests that new insights into a protein that harms the heart and kidneys may lead to the development of novel therapies for chronic kidney disease.

In a study in mice, scientists found that scarring in kidneys and hearts was driven by a protein called Indian Hedgehog (IHH), which is produced and released by a subset of cells in aged and injured kidneys.

Experts say further studies are needed to explore IHH as a potential target for therapies to treat chronic kidney disease (CKD) – a condition that affects 10 per cent of the world’s population.

Risk factor

CKD is a term used to cover any form of kidney disease that continues for more than a few months. It can affect people of any age, but older people are more likely to experience some level of CKD.

While CKD primarily causes damage to kidneys, it is also a major risk factor for accelerated cardiovascular disease and premature death.

Progressive fibrosis – scarring of the kidneys – is a common feature in all CKD, but the mechanism underlying this connection is not fully understood.

Reduced scarring

A team from the University of Edinburgh identified a subset of epithelial cells – cells which make up body tissue – that produce IHH and are only present within aged or injured mouse kidneys.

They showed that these cells produced IHH in response to being activated by the protein TNF – a well-recognised driver of inflammation.

When blocking the actions of TNF or IHH in mouse models of kidney scarring, the team found that scar production in the kidney was reduced and kidney function was also better preserved. Increased levels of scarring in the heart also returned to normal levels.

Blocking pathway

In humans, the team showed that circulating IHH levels were significantly raised in patients with CKD. Patients with cardiovascular disease also had higher levels of IHH than those without cardiac problems.

The findings offer hope that blocking the TNF/IHH signalling pathway could improve both kidney and heart fibrosis problems – the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in patients with CKD.

The study was funded by Kidney Research UK, the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council UK.

Image credit: mi-viri via Getty Images

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