Kidney stones are incredibly painful and there is very little a person can do to relieve the pain or stop them from occurring. However, new research claims a natural fruit extract can dissolve calcium oxalate crystals, which are the most common ingredient in kidney stones. Could this be much-needed relief for people suffering frequent kidney stones?
Jeffrey Rimer, an associate professor at the University of Houston claims this could be the first advancement in kidney stone treatment in over 30 years. He is the lead author in the study, published today in the journal Nature.
HCA as a kidney stone prevention method
This study provides the first evidence that the chemical hydroxycitrate (HCA) can prevent calcium oxalate crystals from growing and even dissolve them in certain circumstances.
HCA could be important because there has been very little advancement in preventative treatment for kidney stones in the last 30 years. Doctors tell patients to avoid certain foods and take citrate (CA) in the form of potassium citrate, but it often comes with negative side effects.
When comparing CA and HCA, hydroxycitrate turns out to be more potent and shows unique qualities that would lend itself to developing new treatments. For example– HCA is excreted in urine, which is a requirement for such a kidney stone treatment.
After comparing the two compounds, the team of researchers then used atomic force microscopy, or AFM, to study how HCA interacted with calcium oxalate crystals.
AFM images showed the crystal shrinking when exposed to HCA. Rimer initially thought the finding was an abnormality.
Chung’s initial finding was correct. The researchers then turned to discover why he was correct.
Researchers applied density functional theory (DFT) – an accurate computational method used to study the structure and properties of materials – to address how HCA and CA bind to calcium and to calcium oxalate crystals. They discovered HCA formed a strong bond with crystal surfaces, inducing a strain that is relieved by the release of calcium and oxalate.
“HCA shows promise as a potential therapy to prevent kidney stones,” the researchers wrote. “HCA may be preferred as a therapy over CA (potassium citrate).”
Testing in human subjects has been successful so far. Rimer’s team notes that the preliminary findings are promising, but additional safety tests are needed to determine if HCA can be used in drug form.
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