Innovative Therapy for Polycystic Kidney Disease

Innovative Therapy for Polycystic Kidney Disease

Polycystic kidney disease is an inherited, life-threatening disorder that affects around 600,000 individuals in the United States alone.

What happens in these people is that there are abnormal cell division and growth that occurs in the kidneys and this leads to the formation of numerous cysts (fluid-filled sacs) which affect the way the organs function. These cysts can also develop in other organs such as the liver and other parts of the body.

Clinical picture

Polycystic kidney disease may cause the following signs and symptoms in affected people:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Back or side pain
  • Increased abdominal swelling due to large cysts of kidneys
  • A feeling of fullness in the abdomen
  • Kidney failure with swelling of the body due to fluid retention (edema)
  • Blood in the urine
  • Kidney or urinary tract infections
  • Kidney stones

Most of these issues are non-specific which means there are other conditions, especially those affecting the kidneys, which may present in a similar way. Patients with polycystic kidney disease may also be living with the condition for years without knowing it because the disorder doesn’t cause any problems until the cysts are large enough to do so.

Complications

Polycystic kidney disease can result in numerous complications such as:

  • Heart attacks and strokes due to elevated blood pressure
  • An increased risk of developing an aneurysm in an artery of the brain which can rupture and cause intracranial bleeding
  • Chronic kidney failure due to progressive loss of kidney function. By 60 years of age, nearly half the patients with polycystic kidney disease have kidney failure
  • An increased risk of developing pre-eclampsia in pregnancy
  • Having heart valve abnormalities such as a mitral valve prolapse
  • Developing diverticulitis in the colon due to weaknesses in the smooth muscle of the large intestine.

Management

Managing polycystic kidney disease involves addressing the signs, symptoms, and complications caused by the disorder.

This means having to incorporate measures to decrease high blood pressure such as prescribing the correct medications and reducing salt-intake in the diet. Patients who develop urinary tract and kidney infection or who start passing blood in the urine should consult with their doctors so that any infections and kidney stones can be managed appropriately. Patients who develop chronic kidney failure due to the condition may have to receive dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Regarding treatment, a recent introduction is that of stem cell therapy for polycystic kidney disease by using those stem cells derived from adipose (fat) tissue. Adipose stem cells are easy to collect and are up to 10 times more readily available than stem cells from bone marrow. The cells are obtained by collecting adipose tissue through liposuction. The adipose stem cells are then administered to the patient where they stimulate other cells to repair the damaged kidney tissue so that the organs can function properly.

In another clinical study, five patients with polycystic kidney disease had their skin cells reprogrammed into stem cells that were also able to stimulate the repair of damaged kidney tissue.

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