Researchers develop blood test to detect membranous nephropathy

By Jenny Eriksen

Research conducted by a pair of physicians at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Boston Medical Center (BMC) has led to the development of a test that can help diagnose membranous nephropathy in its early stages. The test, which is currently only offered in the research setting and is awaiting commercial development, could have significant implications in the diagnosis and treatment of the disease. Currently, the only way to diagnose the disease is through a biopsy.

The pioneering work is being led by Laurence Beck, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at BUSM and a at BMC, and David Salant, MD, professor of medicine at BUSM and chief of the renal section at BMC.

Over the past four years, the Halpin Foundation has contributed more than $350,000 to Beck to investigate the genetics and behind membranous . Most recently, Beck was awarded a $50,000 grant from the Foundation to further his efforts.

Membranous nephropathy is an autoimmune disease caused by the attacking the kidneys, resulting in the thickening and dysfunction of the kidney’s filters, called glomeruli. When antibodies attack the glomeruli, large amounts of protein in the urine are released. In 2009, Beck and Salant identified that the antibodies were binding to a protein in the glomeruli. They determined that the target was a protein called PLA2R, or phospholipase A2 receptor, and these findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“For the first time, a specific biomarker has been identified for this relatively common kidney disease,” said Beck, who is part of an international collaboration that has demonstrated that these antibodies are present in patients from many different ethnicities.

With the antigen protein identified, Beck and Salant have developed a blood test to detect and measure the amount of the specific antibodies in a sample.

Approximately one third of patients with membranous nephropathy eventually develop kidney failure, requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant. According to the University of North Carolina’s Center, the disease affects people over the age of 40, is rare in children and affects more men than women. This disease is treated by high powered chemotherapy, and if successful, the antibodies go away.

“Being able to detect the presence of these antibodies using a blood test has tremendous implications about who is treated, and for how long, with the often toxic immunosuppressive drugs,” said Beck.

Beck continues his research focus on the treatment of the disease by targeting the antibodies and stopping them from attacking the glomeruli.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Putting the spotlight on membranous nephropathy

Nov 10, 2010

The Halpin Foundation and the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) proudly highlight the research advances in membranous nephropathy made possible by The Halpin Foundation-ASN Research Grant, created to help young faculty ...

Recommended for you

Travel restrictions could worsen Ebola crisis: experts

2 hours ago

Travel restrictions could worsen West Africa's Ebola epidemic, limiting medical and food supplies and keeping out much-needed doctors, virologists said Tuesday as the disease continued its deadly spread.

World 'losing battle' to contain Ebola: MSF (Update)

3 hours ago

International medical agency Medecins sans Frontieres said Tuesday the world was "losing the battle" to contain Ebola as the United Nations warned of severe food shortages in the hardest-hit countries.

Mutating Ebola viruses not as scary as evolving ones

3 hours ago

My social media accounts today are cluttered with stories about "mutating" Ebola viruses. The usually excellent ScienceAlert, for example, rather breathlessly informs us "The Ebola virus is mutating faster in humans than in animal hosts ...

War between bacteria and phages benefits humans

4 hours ago

In the battle between our immune systems and cholera bacteria, humans may have an unknown ally in bacteria-killing viruses known as phages. In a new study, researchers from Tufts University, Massachusetts ...

Ebola kills 31 people in DR Congo: WHO

6 hours ago

An outbreak of the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo has killed 31 people and the epidemic remains contained in a remote northwestern region, UN the World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday.

User comments