A team of investigators at the Bristol University, in the United Kingdom, announces the discovery of a mechanism that leads to heart attacks and strokes in people suffering from kidney disease and renal failure. The findings could improve the quality of life for millions of people.
The discovery is very important, considering that a whopping 15 percent of the entire population of the UK is suffering from kidney diseases. Some of these individuals will go on to develop renal failure.
But most patients will develop diseases of the cardiovascular and circulatory systems, and will be at great risk of stroke and heart attacks. In the study, the UB team managed to finally explain this link.
Scientists have known about the connection for years, but the underlying mechanisms eluded their understanding until now. Details of the new work were published in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.
When people develop kidney disease, they undergo a series of cellular changes that has roughly the same influence on their circulatory system as smoking. The reason why this happens, the team learned, is because the inner lining of blood vessels throughout the body is damaged.
The discovery was made after researchers created an animal model that displayed a chronic kidney disease very similar to what human patients are experiencing. They were then able to determine that the damage essentially led to leaky veins.
The lining is made up of a thick layer of sugars and proteins, experts say. The molecular changes caused by renal diseases essentially break this layer, contributing to a condition called atherosclerosis.
“These findings are important as it may mean that protecting or even restoring the inner layer could provide protection to blood vessels,” MRC clinician scientist fellow and lead study author, Dr. Andy Salmon, explains.
“There is still much to explore, and while we have shown that damage to the inner layer in kidney disease disrupts the function of some blood vessels, we do not yet know how much it contributes to the final process of ‘furring up’ of arteries,” he adds.
Salmon also holds an appointment as a consultant senior lecturer in renal medicine at the UB School of Physiology and Pharmacology. The paper detailing the findings is entitled “Loss of the endothelial glycocalyx links albuminuria and vascular dysfunction.”