A once unknown protein, referred to as TMIGD1 protein could help lower the rate of kidney failure from kidney disease, easing pain for millions and significantly slashing healthcare budgets.
Researchers at Boston University discovered that TMIGD1 (transmembrane and immunoglobulin containing 1) is involved in protecting cells – known as epithelial cells – from injury. These are cells that are important to normal kidney function.
The researchers reduced TMIGD1 protein in kidney epithelial cells and they became more prone to injury. When they increased the TMIGD1 it seemed to protect the cells from being injured. They concluded that altering the protein makes it possible to reduce kidney epithelial cell death, thus possibly avoiding kidney failure and morbidity associated with kidney injury.
Kidneys have an important role – they remove wastes and extra water from the blood to form urine. Sometimes people don’t realize they have kidney problems until it becomes severe. Kidneys can fail in a matter of days. This is known as acute kidney failure or (AKF). For some people kidney problems can develop over years, called chronic kidney disease (CKD). Chronic kidney disease is an irreversible form of kidney failure. Both
AKF and CKD are too common. In the United States, close to 20 million people suffer from CKD, which costs Medicare an estimated $32.8 billion.
Currently, kidney transplants and dialysis are the main forms of treatment for people with chronic kidney disease. Dialysis is really a life-support system because it requires machines to help keep the kidney working. The machine filters harmful wastes, salt and excess fluid from the blood, allowing the blood to restore itself to a normal, healthy balance. Essentially, dialysis replaces the kidney’s important functions. While vital to survival, dialysis is not easy for patients to go through since it can be tiring and inconvenient. As the authors of the Boston study point out, these two approaches (transplant and dialysis) don’t directly target the kidney epithelial cells. They believe that therapies, such as TMIGD1 that could potentially protect these cells, might postpone the need for dialysis or a transplant.
Kidney function failure and disease risks
There are a number of factors that can contribute to kidney failure. You can have a condition that slows blood flow to your kidneys, you can experience direct damage to your kidneys, or your kidneys’ urine drainage tubes can become blocked so that waste can’t leave your body. In many cases, diseases can put you at risk for kidney failure.
Acute kidney failure (AKF) is almost always associated with a disease. Here are some conditions that could increase your risk of kidney failure:
- High blood pressure
- Heart failure
- Liver disease
- Blockages in blood vessels in arms and legs
- Advanced age
There are times when AKF can lead to permanent loss of kidney function. This requires either a kidney transplant or permanent dialysis in order to survive.
Symptoms of kidney failure and disease
If chronic kidney disease (CKD) progresses slowly so will the symptoms. While each person may experience a different set of warning signs, there are some common symptoms of kidney disease to be aware of.
- Changes in urine output
- Swelling of feet and ankles
- Persistent itching
- High blood pressure that is hard to control
- Fatigue and weakness
- Muscle twitches and cramps
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
Since kidneys are generally strong and can adapt well to change, signs and symptoms may not appear until damage that can’t be reversed has occurred.
If a person has acute kidney failure they might experience some of the symptoms above, as well as seizures. In severe cases, there is the possibility of slipping into a coma.
Preventing kidney failure
The current statistics on kidney failure do sound alarming, so it stands to reason that people wonder how to prevent kidney disease. There are a number of lifestyle steps you can take to protect your kidneys.
Keeping hydrated is one way to help your kidneys. The human body can last weeks without food but not without fluids, and the kidneys need fluid to function properly. Although nutritionists and medical experts still debate exactly how much water intake is necessary on a daily basis, the point is that fluid not only regulates your body’s temperature, the kidney needs it to help remove waste via urine.
It is important to keep your blood pressure under control if you want to reduce your risk of chronic kidney disease. The best way to do this is to keep fit. Make exercise a part of your daily routine. At the same time, watch what you eat. Reduce your salt and sugar intake. Preparing food yourself, as opposed to buying pre-packaged, processed food will go a long way in controlling both your salt and sugar consumption. This will prevent diabetes, heart disease and other conditions linked to chronic kidney disease.
Studies show that smoking increases the risk of kidney cancer by about 50 percent. It also slows the flow of blood to the kidneys. When less blood reaches the kidneys, it makes it harder for the organ to function.
Taking a lot of over-the-counter medication on a regular basis can also pose a threat. Common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen are known to cause kidney damage if taken regularly. If they are consumed for emergencies only, they normally do not pose a significant danger. If you have a chronic pain problem you might want to talk to your doctor about alternative ways to deal with it so you can avoid any risk to your kidneys.
Tips to keep your kidneys healthy
About one in three Americans has high blood pressure. If you are in this group check your blood pressure regularly and try to get it under control. This will help make sure your kidneys remain healthy. Keeping your blood pressure below 140/90 mm/Hg is the recommended level; however, it is best to discuss your appropriate target with your healthcare provider. Your doctor can also advise you on various ways to lower your blood pressure beyond taking medications.
Here are some other tips to keep your kidneys healthy:
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
- Stay in your target cholesterol range
- Take your medications as directed
Injuries and infections can also impact your kidneys, so if you experience pain or burning when you urinate, an urge to urinate often, back pain, chills or fever, you should seek medical attention. If infection or injury goes untreated it can lead to serious kidney damage.
In addition to removing waste and toxins from our bodies, healthy kidneys make important chemicals called hormones. These hormones circulate in the bloodstream and regulate some body functions, including blood pressure, the making of red blood cells, and the uptake of calcium from the intestine. It is easy to see how damage to our kidneys can be life altering. More than 100 countries around the world have acknowledged the importance of good kidney function by declaring one day every year “World Kidney Day.” Every year on the second Thursday of March the global health awareness campaign focuses on the importance of kidneys and reducing the impact of kidney disease. We can do our part by taking care of ourselves.
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