September 15, 2008

Kidney Disease Gene Variants Found

U.S. medical scientists say they have discovered gene variants that account for kidney diseases among African-Americans.

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health and Johns Hopkins University said they have, for the first time, identified variations in a single gene that are strongly associated with kidney diseases disproportionately affecting blacks.

"These two breakthrough genomic studies on kidney disease illustrate the importance of collaborations between scientists at NIH and NIH-funded investigators at Johns Hopkins," said Dr. Elias Zerhouni, the institutes' director. "This type of government-academic collaboration moves translational research forward and provides the knowledge base for developing new therapies for these chronic health disorders."

Using a type of genome association that relies on differences in the frequency of gene variants between populations, the researchers identified several variations in the MYH9 gene as major contributors to excess risk of kidney disease among African-Americans. The NIH researchers shared their discovery with the Johns Hopkins scientists, who replicated the findings in participants from earlier studies of kidney disease.

The studies will appear in the October print issue of the journal Nature Genetics and are now available online at the journal's Web site.