Kidney stone disease is on the rise worldwide, with increases seen across gender, age and race. In the US one in every 11 people will experience kidney stones at some point in their life and in Japan the rates have doubled over the past 40 years.
Researchers from Newcastle University, working with colleagues at Harvard University have now found that many cases of kidney stones have a genetic cause.
Better screening and treatment
The breakthrough published in 'Journal of The American Society of Nephrology', means doctors will be able to treat some patients more effectively and screen others for the disease, which can cause extreme pain and lead to long-term kidney damage.
By tracing the DNA link, medics will now be able to identify patients and family members who are at risk of developing this serious condition and intervene with specific treatments.
Professor John Sayer, a kidney specialist at Newcastle University and Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Previously it was thought that about 1% of kidney stone cases were caused by genetic disease.
“But our study showed 15% - a far higher and more significant proportion of cases, are related to DNA and this opens up new opportunities for treatments and diagnosis.
“Current treatments for kidney stones include medical and surgical options. In light of this research we now aim to direct medical treatment at the precise cause of the condition to avoid recurrent stones and the multitude of surgical procedures that are often needed.”
A further breakthrough in renal research by the team has been hailed the first step towards developing personalised medicine to treat Joubert Syndrome, a rare childhood disease that often leads to total kidney failure by the age of 13.
Findings published in the journal 'Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences' show that kidney damage in patients suffering from the condition is not permanent and can be treated.
Whilst further research and testing is still needed, it's hoped the results will provide the basis on which specific treatments can be developed.
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