The makings of a test for liver disease

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  • Published: Apr 23, 2015
  • Author: Steve Down
  • Channels: Proteomics & Genomics / Base Peak / Proteomics

Scientists at the University of Manchester have identified changes in the protein composition of the liver which could form the basis of a new test for kidney disease.

Rachel Lennon and colleagues based their research on the fact that gender and genetics appear to influence the susceptibility to impaired kidney function, as they explained in Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. Men are more likely to contract kidney problems than women, and Afro-Caribbeans are more susceptible than Caucasians.

The researchers examined male and female mice from two genetic backgrounds with different tendencies towards albuminuria, the release of excess proteins in the urine. They used mass spectrometry and proteomics techniques to compare the proteins within the extracellular matrix in the kidney, which controls what the kidney allows to pass through.

They found that the abundances of a number of proteins differed between mice of different gender, and especially between mice of different genetic background. In addition, the physical structures of those parts of the kidney were altered. Those in the susceptible mice were fatter and had splits in them.

"The most surprising thing about our findings were that the mice weren't actually exhibiting any symptoms of kidney disease and were all still in full health despite having this different structure in their filters. Their kidneys appeared to be functioning normally," said Lennon.

One of the next stages will be to examine the state of play in humans and the team expect the same differences occur. The long-term aim is to develop a test for kidney problems. "At the moment we do see these changes in structure when looking at biopsies from kidney patients in clinic but we haven’t known what they mean. What we’re hoping is that this research will help develop a test that picks up kidney disease or even just a susceptibility to kidney disease before any damage has been done," Lennon explained.

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