RA drug offers fresh hope in polycystic kidney disease

A drug currently used to treat rheumatoid arthritis (RA) could offer fresh hope to sufferers of polycystic kidney disease by preventing the formation of cysts, US research suggests.

Polycystic kidney disease is the most commonly inherited renal disease and is estimated to affect one in 800 people.

Currently, there are no treatments to prevent the development of kidney cysts, which eventually lead to end-stage renal failure.

But latest research performed in mice has shown that the use of etanercept could halt cyst formation.

The researchers, led by Dr Rong Li from the Institute for Medical Research in Kansas City, Missori, first analysed cyst fluid taken from 10 human kidneys of patients with polycystic kidney disease and compared them with fluid from normal kidneys.

They found that the inflammatory signalling protein tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) accumulated in high levels in the cystic fluid of sufferers of polycystic kidney disease.

To test the effect of TNF-alpha on cyst formation, a group of mice genetically engineered to have polycystic kidney disease were injected every week with 0.5 micrograms of TNF-alpha for four weeks.

No cysts were observed in the control mice but four of the 10 mice that were injected developed cysts.

They then treated a group of disease mice with 125 micrograms per week of the TNF-alpha inhibitor etanercept to see if it would lower levels of the protein.

After 10 weeks of treatment, none of the 50 disease mice developed any cysts.


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