Connie K. Ho for RedOrbit.com
A sharp irritation near the stomach. The feeling of pain in the back. The discovery of blood in the urine. These are just a few of the symptoms of kidney stones. An estimated one million people suffer from kidney stones each year. Recently, more information was revealed regarding the cause of kidney stones through research done by scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri.
The research, unveiled in the EMBO Journal by the European Molecular Biology Organization, provides reasons as to why some people are more susceptible to kidney stones than others are. The findings allow for the development of effective treatments and tests that could assess a person´s risk of having the illness. Mice were utilized in the study and can possibly be used in clinical trials of new treatments for kidney stones.
“Now, we finally have a more complete picture detailing why some people develop kidney stones and others do not,” remarked senior author Jianghui Hou, PhD, assistant professor of medicine, in a prepared statement. “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.”
Generally, kidney stores form when urine becomes too concentrated and causes minerals like calcium to bond together. Diet factors, like eating foods that are high in salt or not drinking enough water, can increase the chance of having kidney stones.
Apart from dietary concerns, scientists point to genes as having a role in the formation of kidney stones. Claudin-14, a genetic variation, has been linked to kidney stones and those who have the mutation have a 65 percent greater chance of having stones. The new study has shown how variations in gene activity can influence kidney stone formation. When claudin-14 is not active, the kidney works normally and important minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, can pass through easily. These minerals are then reabsorbed into the blood where they assist in basic body functions. However, when people eat too many salty foods or do not drink enough water, the claudin-14 starts working. It prevents calcium from entering “tight junctions” in cells that line the kidneys and cannot effectively separate blood from the urine. Excess calcium then filters into the urine, which leads to kidney stones in the bladder or kidney.
Based on his research, Hou believes that treatments could be developed focused on the activity of caludin-14. He is also optimistic that tests could be created to analyze the level of claudin-14 and determine the possibility of stones. These tests could patients identify the need to change certain parts of their diet.
“Many genes likely play a role in the formation of kidney stones,” commented Hou in the statement. “But this study gives us a better idea of the way one of the major players work. Now that we understand the physiology of the condition, we can start to think about better treatments or even ways to prevent stones from developing in the first place.”