TECHNIQUE for treating polycystic kidney disease (PKD) has been revealed by researchers at The University of Manchester and University College London (UCL). The treatment, which involves targeting tiny blood and lymphatic vessels inside the kidneys, has shown to improve renal function and slow progression of PKD in mice.
PKD treatment has traditionally targeted proteins suspected to play a role in disease onset, located in hair-like structures and tissue that line the inside of cysts. These treatments may help to alleviate several PKD symptoms, but they cannot currently cure PKD. Researchers have discovered that the blood and lymphatic system surrounding cysts could also be significant in PKD progression, and may constitute a new target for PKD treatment.
By analysing mouse models of both the common and rarer form of PKD, the team observed that tiny blood vessels surrounding the cyst were altered very early in cyst development. They therefore treated the mice with a potent ‘growth factor’ protein called vascular endothelial growth factor C, and noticed that patterns of blood vessels normalised and the function of kidneys improved. In the mice with the rare form of the condition, it caused a moderate but important increase in lifespan.
Dr David Long, lead researcher and Principal Research Associate, Institute of Child Health, UCL, London, UK, explained: “With further testing, treatments that target blood vessels surrounding the kidney cysts, perhaps in combination with currently used drugs, may prove to be beneficial for patients with PKD.” Prof Adrian Woolf, study co-author and Professor of Paediatric Science, The University of Manchester, Manchester, added: “If we could target these blood vessels early in the development of the condition it could potentially lead to much better outcomes for patients.”
Dr Richard Trompeter, Chairman of Kids Kidney Research, Southwater, said: “By identifying a treatment plan that can prevent further deterioration of kidney function in patients with this particular disease, our researchers have given fresh hope to thousands of people in the UK with this kidney condition. However, research like this can only continue with the support of the public.”