Research shows new cause of common kidney disease

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Researchers at Columbia University have made a significant breakthrough in understanding Immunoglobulin A (IgA) nephropathy, a common form of kidney disease.

The team’s research suggests that the root causes of this disease likely exist outside the kidney itself, primarily involving the immune system.

IgA nephropathy is notorious for being hard to diagnose. Traditionally, detecting the disease has required a kidney biopsy, a procedure where a small piece of kidney tissue is removed for lab analysis.

This invasive method, coupled with limited insights into the disease’s origins, has hindered the development of specific treatments.

In a sweeping genetic study involving nearly 200 scientists across more than 100 institutions worldwide, the Columbia researchers have broadened our understanding of IgA nephropathy.

They gathered and analyzed blood samples from almost 40,000 people, including those diagnosed with the disease, over a ten-year period. This extensive collection of data marks the largest genetic study ever conducted on IgA nephropathy.

The researchers identified 16 new genomic regions linked to the disease.

These findings support the idea that abnormalities in the immune system, particularly in the production and regulation of IgA antibodies, are central to the disease’s development. IgA is a type of antibody that plays a crucial role in the immune function of mucous membranes.

The implications of this study are vast. For one, it shifts the focus from treating the symptoms within the kidney to understanding and modifying the immune system’s behavior. This new understanding could lead to better diagnostic tools and more targeted therapies.

One of the practical outcomes of the research is the creation of a genetic risk profile. This tool can predict which patients are most likely to experience severe disease progression, potentially advancing to kidney failure.

Knowing who is at higher risk can help in managing the disease more effectively and could be a stepping stone in preventative care.

Furthermore, the study identified specific proteins associated with the newly discovered genes. These proteins could serve as potential targets for new drugs.

Interestingly, the research also pointed to two existing drugs, previously studied for other conditions, which might be effective in treating IgA nephropathy.

Krzysztof Kiryluk, the study’s lead author, emphasized the importance of genetic research in drug development. He expressed optimism that the findings might encourage pharmaceutical companies to pursue new treatments based on these genetic insights.

As the research community continues to unravel the genetic basis of diseases like IgA nephropathy, there is hope that more effective and personalized treatments will become available, offering new hope to those affected by this challenging condition.

The study’s findings were published in the journal Nature Genetics, adding a crucial chapter to the ongoing story of genetic research in kidney health.

If you care about kidney health, please read studies about how to protect your kidneys from diabetes, and drinking coffee could help reduce risk of kidney injury.

For more information about kidney health, please see recent studies about foods that may prevent recurrence of kidney stones, and eating nuts linked to lower risk of chronic kidney disease and death.

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