Researchers develop blood test to detect membranous nephropathy

December 1, 2011 By Jenny Eriksen, Boston University

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.

Explore further: Research aims to prevent diabetic kidney failure

Related Stories

Research aims to prevent diabetic kidney failure

November 5, 2011
The enzyme arginase-2 plays a major role in kidney failure, and blocking the action of this enzyme might lead to protection against renal disease in diabetes, according to researchers.

Recommended for you

Flu may be spread just by breathing, new study shows; coughing and sneezing not required

January 18, 2018
It is easier to spread the influenza virus (flu) than previously thought, according to a new University of Maryland-led study released today. People commonly believe that they can catch the flu by exposure to droplets from ...

New approach could help curtail hospitalizations due to influenza infection

January 18, 2018
More than 700,000 Americans were hospitalized due to illnesses associated with the seasonal flu during the 2014-15 flu season, according to federal estimates. A radical new approach to vaccine development at UCLA may help ...

Certain flu virus mutations may compensate for fitness costs of other mutations

January 18, 2018
Seasonal flu viruses continually undergo mutations that help them evade the human immune system, but some of these mutations can reduce a virus's potency. According to new research published in PLOS Pathogens, certain mutations ...

Zika virus damages placenta, which may explain malformed babies

January 18, 2018
Though the Zika virus is widely known for a recent outbreak that caused children to be born with microencephaly, or having a small head, and other malformations, scientists have struggled to explain how the virus affects ...

Study reveals how MRSA infection compromises lymphatic function

January 17, 2018
Infections of the skin or other soft tissues with the hard-to-treat MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) bacteria appear to permanently compromise the lymphatic system, which is crucial to immune system function. ...

Fresh approach to tuberculosis vaccine offers better protection

January 17, 2018
A unique platform that resulted in a promising HIV vaccine has also led to a new, highly effective vaccine against tuberculosis that is moving toward testing in humans.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.