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An estimated 37 million Americans live with chronic kidney disease. If you have diabetes or hypertension, you should know you’re at high risk of joining them.
And, because the disease is often silent, up to 9 in 10 patients don’t even realize they have it until it’s severe.
If that weren’t bad enough, over the past four decades, modern medicine has offered only a handful of new options for treating it.
But that may be changing — thanks to the identification of an enzyme “helper” molecule that could be used not only to help develop new treatments, but prevent kidney disease in the first place…
Protecting the vital role of tubule cells
Metabolic reactions spark energy to carry out specific functions in the human body. Metabolites are like fuel for those reactions. Without these helper molecules, important processes can go awry and often lead to disease conditions.
Researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found that using a common supplement to boost one such helper molecule, called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD for short), protected mice from kidney dysfunction by protecting the mitochondria of kidney tubule cells.
Mitochondria are responsible for supplying energy to most cells in the body. And similarly, NAD is found in all living cells. Of course, NAD synthesis (like so many things) decreases with age and also quickens aging.
When the researchers were mapping metabolite changes in mouse and human kidneys, they identified differences in levels between healthy and diseased kidneys that were consistent, including a prominent decrease in NAD in diseased kidneys.
So they decided to give mice supplements to see if it would reverse the NAD loss — and it did. That protected the mitochondria in the tubule cells which are used to return filtered nutrients to the body’s bloodstream.
When the mitochondria in those cells are damaged, a pathway causing inflammation and kidney disease development is activated. But NAD supplements suppressed the inflammation, protected the tubule cell mitochondria and prevented kidney dysfunction in the mice.
When asked what the results of this study could do for the future of kidney disease treatment, co-lead investigator Katalin Susztak, MD, Ph.D., had this to say: “We hope that this research can lead to improved care in the future. So when patients have metabolite changes, they can receive treatment before kidney disorders arise.”
Boosting the body’s NAD
The research team hopes that their research will lead to further studies into the role of metabolite changes in kidney dysfunction, as well as the development of new pharmaceuticals to prevent and treat kidney disease.
But the supplement that boosted NAD used in this research is already readily available over the counter…
The researchers suggested nicotinamide riboside or nicotinamide mononucleotide — both of which are forms of B3 — and act as precursors to help the body produce the enzyme NAD.
For people at risk of kidney disease, supplementing to support NAD could be key to avoiding it.
If you currently have kidney disease and take medication, it’s a good idea to discuss taking supplements with your prescribing physician.
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Key mechanism for kidney disease identified – EurekAlert!