Polycystic Kidney Disease (cont.)
In this Article
Hope through research
Scientists have begun to identify the processes that trigger formation of PKD cysts. Advances in the field of genetics have increased our understanding of the abnormal genes responsible for autosomal dominant and autosomal recessive PKD. Scientists have located two genes associated with autosomal dominant PKD. The first was located in 1985 on chromosome 16 and labeled PKD1. PKD2 was localized to chromosome 4 in 1993. Within 3 years, scientists had isolated the proteins these two genes produce-polycystin-1 and polycystin-2.
When both the PKD1 and PKD2 genes are normal, the proteins they produce work together to foster normal kidney development and inhibit cyst formation. A mutation in either of the genes can lead to cyst formation, but evidence suggests that disease development also requires other factors, in addition to the mutation in one of the PKD genes.
Genetic analyses of most families with PKD confirm mutations in either the PKD1 or PKD2 gene. In about 10 to 15 percent of cases, however, families with autosomal dominant PKD do not show obvious abnormalities or mutations in the PKD1 and PKD2 genes, using current testing methods.
Researchers have also recently identified the autosomal recessive PKD gene, called PKHD1, on chromosome 6. Genetic testing for autosomal recessive PKD to detect mutations in PKHD1 is now offered by a limited number of molecular genetic diagnostics laboratories in the United States.
Researchers have bred rodents with a genetic disease that parallels both inherited forms of human PKD. Studying these mice will lead to greater understanding of the genetic and nongenetic mechanisms involved in cyst formation. In recent years, researchers have discovered several compounds that appear to inhibit cyst formation in mice with the PKD gene. Some of these compounds are in clinical testing in humans. Scientists hope further testing will lead to safe and effective treatments for humans with the disease.
Recent clinical studies of autosomal dominant PKD are exploring new imaging methods for tracking progression of cystic kidney disease. These methods, using MRI, are helping scientists design better clinical trials for new treatments of autosomal dominant PKD.
People interested in participating in clinical trials of new treatments for PKD can find a list of centers recruiting patients at www.ClinicalTrials.gov.
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