An American medical study spanning several generations may have inadvertently discovered significant blood markers that will one day help predict whether a person will experience Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD). The Framington Heart Study has been conducted since 1948 by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in Framington, Massachusetts. And some unexpected results that relate to CKD were published in theJournal of the American Society of Nephrology on October 21, 2010.
- A new blood test for kidney disease?
The main test currently used to detect CKD is a test for creatinine in the blood. Unfortunately, though, creatinine only noticeably accumulates after the kidneys have already lost much of their function. If the new study’s results can be reproduced and further validated, they will provide ways of detecting CKD much earlier, meaning treatment can also begin earlier, thereby possibly saving the kidneys and preventing further damage.
The 2,300 study participants gave blood samples between 1995 and 1998, with normal kidney function. The odd thing was that since the study was mainly concerned with the heart, the focus was not at first on kidney disease at all. Yet when 9.5 percent of participants had developed CKD within a decade, with another eight percent having reduced kidney function, researchers examined six blood markers from the original samples to check for correlations. Two of these – homocysteine, which builds proteins, and aldosterone, dealing with how kidneys handle salt, had elevated levels, as did B-type natriuretic peptide, which also can indicate heart damage.
This doesn’t mean doctors can now simply test for these markers and immediately predict CKD. For one thing, the study must be replicated, widening beyond the largely European-descended group originally tested. But if these results hold true in future clinical studies, they may provide a way both of testing early for CKD, and taking steps to prevent and treat it.