Kidney Disease Research Round-Up: June 2018

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is very common in the United States, affecting more than 30 million Americans. In chronic kidney disease, also known as chronic kidney failure, the kidneys gradually stop working over time. This leads to a dangerous buildup of fluids, electrolytes and waste that are normally filtered out by the kidneys.

Treatment for chronic kidney disease involves slowing the progression of the disease, but unfortunately, kidney disease is often not diagnosed until it reaches later stages.

Today's research focuses both on earlier detection and better treatments for chronic kidney disease symptoms. We've gathered together some of the latest projects and breakthroughs in kidney research.

Artificial Intelligence to detect chronic kidney disease

Mount Sinai Hospital announced a partnership with AI healthcare startup RenalytixAI to create an AI tool that can identify patients at the hospital who are at risk for advanced kidney disease. This will include patients with Type 2 diabetes, a significant risk factor for chronic kidney disease, as well as African Americans, who are 3 times more likely to experience kidney failure.

Through the partnership, the two organizations will input health record data from 3 million patients in to the AI tool, saving staff time on data analysis and improving patient care in the process.

"Through early identification of those at risk, we will have the potential to prevent or slow progress [of] kidney disease through proactive monitoring and management. This will have a lasting and significant effect on the lives of our patients," Barbara Murphy, MD, of Mount Sinai told Forbes.

Today, kidney disease often goes undetected until symptoms are more severe. If kidney disease is caught early, patients can avoid dialysis, so early detection would make a significant difference for patients.

Treatment option for patients with type 2 diabetes and CKD

Diabetes is a significant risk factor for kidney disease – around 30% of patients with type 1 diabetes and 10 to 40% of those with type 2 eventually experience kidney failure, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

Metformin is one of the most common type 2 diabetes treatments. But doctors have long avoided prescribing metformin to patients who also have CKD because of the risk of a serious complication. It was thought that patients with CKD who take metformin were at a higher risk of developing lactic acidosis, which occurs when lactate builds up in the bloodstream and produces symptoms such as nausea, muscle cramps, and weakness.

A new, more thorough study found that there was only an association between metformin use and acidosis in patients with severely decreased kidney function.

More studies are needed, but researchers are cautiously optimistic that metformin may be safe to prescribe to more type 2 diabetes patients than previously thought.

Hope for polycystic kidney disease patients

Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is an inherited disorder that causes fluid-filled cysts to grow on the kidneys. The kidneys can become damaged if too many cysts grow or if they become too big. Over time, the cysts start to replace the kidneys, which can ultimately lead to kidney failure.

In April, the FDA approved the first treatment for PKD. While not a cure, trials indicated that the treatment delays PKD symptoms as well as the rate of kidney pain, stones, and infections.

Claudia Iliescu participated in a clinical trial for the treatment and continues to take it after the trial has ended. Though her cysts haven’t gone away, they have stopped growing since she started the treatment.

"Just slowing down the progression of the disease is fantastic,” she said to WCVB, a TV station in Boston.

New treatments for kidney disease can’t move forward without clinical trial volunteers. If you’re interested in taking part, start searching for a trial near you below.