Scientists identify mechanisms in kidney disease that trigger heart attacks and strokes

August 21, 2012, University of Bristol
Scientists identify mechanisms in kidney disease that trigger heart attacks and strokes

(Medical Xpress) -- Up to 15 per cent of the population in the UK are affected by kidney disease. While a small number of individuals will develop kidney failure, a far greater number will develop circulatory diseases such as heart attacks and strokes.  New research, led by academics at the University of Bristol, has now identified the underlying mechanisms that can contribute to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, aimed to investigate the cellular changes that occur in , which also increase the risk of circulatory disease by about the same amount as smoking. Until now, the factors that link kidney and widespread circulatory diseases were not well understood given that it is difficult to study the inner lining of blood vessels in patients.

However, using animal models with a form of chronic kidney disease that mimicked the kidney disease seen in patients, the researchers found that the inner lining of blood vessels throughout the body is damaged. The damage, which results in leaky blood vessels throughout the body, is typical of the changes seen in patients.

This inner lining of blood vessels comprises a thick layer of sugars and proteins that form a continuous coat inside blood vessels, and provides protection to blood vessel walls. When this inner coat becomes damaged then blood vessels become leaky and inflamed, and previous studies have shown that damage to this inner layer speeds up the process of atherosclerosis (“furring up” of arteries).

If the findings of damage to this blood vessel lining in kidney disease are also true in patients, then damage to this inner layer may go some way to explain the very high rates of circulatory disease in patients with chronic kidney disease.  Interestingly, the team also found that substances that stick to the inner layer improve the function of the damaged blood vessels, by making the vessels less leaky. 

Dr Andy Salmon, lead author and MRC Clinician Scientist Fellow and Consultant Senior Lecturer in Renal Medicine in the University’s School of Physiology and Pharmacology, said: “These findings are important as it may mean that protecting or even restoring the inner layer could provide protection to blood vessels. There is still much to explore, and while we have shown that damage to the inner layer in kidney disease disrupts the function of some blood vessels, we do not yet know how much it contributes to the final process of ‘furring up’ of arteries.

“We have previously shown that this inner lining can be restored by growth factors that exist in the body, but we do not yet have any drugs that achieve the same effect, and so there is much work still to be done.”

Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), which co-funded the study, added: “We’ve known for some time that there’s a link between kidney disease and heart and but it’s been unclear why. This study may help unravel this mystery.

“This study shows that damage to the glycocalyx – the sugar coating that lines our blood vessels – causes in patients with chronic kidney disease to become more leaky. The discovery could help lead towards new ways of preventing kidney disease in the future.

“But this breakthrough also brings us closer to understanding how other circulatory diseases develop, including coronary heart disease, the cause of heart attacks. We need to put this vessel sugar coat under the microscope, because it could be important in many different ways.”

The study, entitled Loss of the endothelial glycocalyx links albuminuria and vascular dysfunction, is published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, was supported by the British Heart Foundation, the Medical Research Council, the Academy of Medical Sciences and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Explore further: Why some kidney disease patients can't repair blood vessels

More information: Loss of the endothelial glycocalyx links albuminuria and vascular dysfunction, 2012. doi: 10.1681/ASN.2012010017

Related Stories

Why some kidney disease patients can't repair blood vessels

October 27, 2011
In some kidney diseases, patients have high blood levels of a protein that blocks blood vessel repair, according to a study appearing in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Society Nephrology (JASN). Inhibiting ...

Scientists show 'swamp gas' protects blood vessels from complications of diabetes

August 2, 2011
Hydrogen sulfide is a foul-smelling gas with an odor resembling that of rotten eggs. Sometimes called "swamp gas," this toxic substance is generally associated with decaying vegetation, sewers and noxious industrial emissions. ...

Complications of chronic kidney disease occur earlier in children

October 4, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- In what may lead to a shift in treatment, the largest prospective study of children with chronic kidney disease (CKD) has confirmed some experts’ suspicions that complications occur early. The findings ...

Poor growth, delayed puberty and heart problems plague kids with mild kidney disease

August 12, 2011
Children with only mildly to moderately impaired kidney function experience poor growth, delays in puberty, and heart problems, according to a study appearing in an upcoming issue of the Clinical Journal of the American Society ...

Recommended for you

Onions could hold key to fighting antibiotic resistance

January 22, 2018
A type of onion could help the fight against antibiotic resistance in cases of tuberculosis, a UCL and Birkbeck-led study suggests.

New long-acting approach for malaria therapy developed

January 22, 2018
A new study, published in Nature Communications, conducted by the University of Liverpool and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine highlights a new 'long acting' medicine for the prevention of malaria.

Virus shown to be likely cause of mystery polio-like illness

January 22, 2018
A major review by UNSW researchers has identified strong evidence that a virus called Enterovirus D68 is the cause of a mystery polio-like illness that has paralysed children in the US, Canada and Europe.

Study ends debate over role of steroids in treating septic shock

January 19, 2018
The results from the largest ever study of septic shock could improve treatment for critically ill patients and save health systems worldwide hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

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 ...

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 ...

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.