New findings by St. Michael's researchers about the way cells work could lead to a test and therapy for kidney failure caused by E. coli
TORONTO, Ont., Jan. 10, 2012Ever since the water supply in Walkerton, Ont., was contaminated by E. coli in 2000, Dr. Philip Marsden has been trying to figure out just how a toxin released by that particular strain of the bacteria causes kidney damage in children.
Now Dr. Marsden and his team based at St. Michael's Hospital and the University of Toronto, led by graduate student Tania Petruzziello-Pellegrini, together with an international team of collaborators, have made new discoveries about the basic workings of endothelial cells that could lead to a diagnostic test for the serious kidney disease known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and a possible treatment.
Endothelial cells line the inside of blood vessels and are the cells most severely affected in HUS, one of the most common causes of sudden onset kidney failure in children.
His work took a sudden twist in May 2011, when an E. coli outbreak swept northern Germany and researchers discovered that a different strain of the bacteria was producing the identical toxin. This time the HUS mainly affected adults, especially women, and was associated with severe kidney failure and strokes.
Dr. Marsden's team extracted endothelial cells from healthy people and exposed them to the toxin in a culture dish. They discovered a biological pathway never before known to have played a role in the development of HUS.
Specifically, they found that the toxin can increase the level of a chemokine, namely SDF-1, and its receptor, CXCR4. Chemokines are small secreted proteins that stimulate cells to move or migrate. CXCR4 was already known to stimulate the release and migration of the precursors of white blood cells from bone marrow, to change how blood vessels grow and to help the AIDS virus enter cells.
|Contact: Leslie Shepherd|
St. Michael's Hospital