In the United States, there are currently 30 million people who have been diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (CKD), which is the progressive loss of kidney function. Over time, the kidneys lose the ability to filter waste and excess fluid from the blood.
In the earlier stages of kidney disease, there may not obvious signs and symptoms. Unfortunately, it may not be apparent that kidney function is impaired until there is significant damage. As the disease progresses, symptoms may include:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Fatigue and/or weakness
- Sleep problems
- Increased frequency of urination
- Decreased mental acuity
- Muscle twitches and/or camps
- Swelling of feet/ankles and puffiness around eyes
- Bone pain and fractures
- Persistent itching, easy bruising, and pale skin
- Chest pain, if fluid builds up around lining of the heart
- Shortness of breath, if fluid builds up in the lungs
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
The University College London (UCL), in collaboration with NatCen Social Research, has been performing studies in England to monitor the nation’s health since 1994. There were 8,011 adults and 2,056 children who took part in the Health Survey for England 2016.
In their current study, the UCL found that one-third of people over the age of 75 show evidence of severe chronic kidney disease (stages 3 to 5). Only 5 percent of that age group reported a diagnosis of chronic kidney disease. This means that one in 20 adults over the age of 75 reported a diagnosis of chronic kidney disease, while the researchers found that one-third of the group had evidence of severe chronic kidney disease. These results are deeply concerning for researchers at the University.
Diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, smoking, obesity, age, a family history of kidney disease, abnormal kidney structure, or being African-American, Native American or Asian-American can all increase the risk of developing chronic kidney disease. Fortunately, people with high blood pressure are being diagnosed and treated effectively, which will reduce their risk of future kidney disease. Medical professionals are proactively trying to address these risk factors to enhance preventative care and reduce the number of people at risk for CKD.
The good news is that researchers at the Saban Research Institute of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles have had success in controlling the progression of chronic kidney failure in mice.
The researchers studied the effectiveness of a cellular approach to Alport syndrome, a specific kind of CKD. In Alport syndrome, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is elevated, which causes damage to the cells that line the surface of blood vessels in the glomeruli, the area responsible for filtering blood.
In this study, the team injected amniotic fluid stem cells (AFSCs) into mice. They found that extracellular vesicles—tiny protein-filled structures—released by the AFSCs bind to the growth factor and reduce its damaging effect on the glomerulus.
This is the first study to prove that extracellular vesicles can be successfully applied to glomerular disease. Researchers can modify the amount and type of extracellular vesicles that they inject, and the vesicles still target and work directly in the area that requires treatment.
Kidney disease has no cure, though there are some treatment options. It is important to be proactive about reducing your risk of developing kidney disease by quitting smoking, getting your blood pressure under control, eating healthy, and staying active.