College of Graduate Studies

Researchers aim to stop progression of kidney disease by Jeffrey Xie, M.D./​PhD student in the Department of Medicine UT

Scientists at UT look at one specific molecule that can detect problems early

 By JEFFREY XIE
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It is estimated that 14 percent of the U.S. population has chronic kidney disease, which is an umbrella term for many conditions that can cause ongoing injury to the kidneys.

Both high blood pressure and diabetes can cause damage to the kidneys, which over time, can result in chronic kidney disease. One reason this disease is so widespread is that it is often silent, meaning that many people with chronic kidney disease do not have enough symptoms to diagnose until it is very advanced.

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Jeffrey Xie is a student at the University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences Biomedical Science.

Scientists from around the world, including several of us at the University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences, formerly the Medical College of Ohio, are working hard to find ways to prevent patients diagnosed with chronic kidney disease from ever progressing to the most severe stage of the disease.

The kidney’s primary job is to filter the blood to remove waste products. Doctors can determine how effective a person’s kidneys are by measuring something called his glomerular filtration rate. Doctors use glomerular filtration rates to determine the progression of chronic kidney disease in their patients. When a patient’s glomerular filtration rate drops to 15 percent of a healthy person’s, that patient has reached end-stage kidney failure.

Despite all of the advances in modern medicine, the only two treatment options for end-stage kidney failure are repeated dialysis, which often lead to a number of bad side effects, or a kidney transplant, where the estimated wait time for a kidney can be three to five years.

Changes to a patient’s kidney that have occurred by the time he has reached end-stage kidney failure are not reversible. Because of such extensive kidney damage, it is unlikely that a drug will be found to treat end-stage kidney failure for the foreseeable future.

At UT, we are focused on finding better ways to identify chronic kidney disease at earlier stages to give doctors a better chance to slow down or even stop chronic kidney disease in its tracks. Under the direction of professors Steven Haller and Jiang Tian, I research one specific molecule called Cluster of Differentiation 40, or CD40, which we believe could be useful in detecting chronic kidney disease at earlier stages.

Interestingly, scientists have actually known about CD40 for years. It plays a central role in activating an immune response and helping the body fight infection.

However, CD40 has recently been identified as also having an important role in chronic kidney disease.

Through a collaborative effort with other scientists from UT, we have recently shown that blocking CD40 can be helpful in treating chronic kidney disease in the laboratory. We demonstrated that animal models without CD40 were more resistant to chronic kidney disease.

We are working to convert these research findings into real-world benefits for patients with chronic kidney disease. There is still a lot that remains unknown about the function of CD40 in the kidneys, and I have worked hard to unravel these mysteries. However, much more work needs to be done before doctors can apply our research findings in the hospital.

As a result of working alongside a large, multidisciplinary research team that includes statisticians, mathematicians and doctors who specialize in treating patients with kidney disorders, we have made and will continue to strive to make important contributions in our fight against chronic kidney disease.

Jeffrey Xie is an M.D./​PhD student in the department of medicine in the University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences Biomedical Science Program. Mr. Xie is doing his research in the laboratory of Drs. Jiang Tian and Steven Haller. For more information, contact Jeffrey.Xie@rockets.utoledo.edu or go to utoledo.edu/​med/​grad/​biomedical.


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