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Newly discovered genetic disease sheds light on body's water balance

that some other mechanism was disrupting fluid homeostasis.

"This is a good example of the value of humility about what we know and don't know in clinical medicine," said Gitelman. "When something seems to fit a classic pattern, but actually doesn't, our job as physician scientists is to recognize the discrepancy and get to the bottom of the situation."

First, Gitelman and his colleagues worked to find an innovative treatment for the two young patients. "When adults retain too much water we can treat them by restricting fluid intake," he said. "We can't do that with infants -- almost all of their nutrition comes in liquid form."

The physicians were reluctant to use other medications that generate increased water loss in the kidneys, as these can have side effects or toxicities in young children. Instead, with Feldman and pediatric endocrinology fellow Eric Huang, MD, Gitelman administered urea, a natural nitrogen compound that encourages urination by acting as an osmotic agent. As water flowed out of their bodies and sodium concentrations returned to normal, both babies recovered. They continue to be followed by the UCSF team.

Next Gitelman, Rosenthal and Feldman took blood samples from each baby boy and his mother to search for the cause of the unique disorder. They learned that Raymond Fenwick, a scientist with Quest Diagnostics Nichols Institute, was developing an assay that could be used to sequence the AVPR2 gene that codes for the V2 receptor.

Fenwick sequenced the patients' AVPR2 genes and found that each boy had a unique mutation affecting the amino acid arginine at position 137 (R137). The single nucleotide change resulted in one baby having a change from arginine to cysteine (R137C). This same mutation was carried by his mother. The other child had a change from arginine to leucine (R137L) but the mother is normal, suggesting that the baby's mutation occurred spontaneously. The fact that the two affected patients ar
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Source:University of California - San Francisco


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