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Investigators identify gene associated with kidney disease in African-American population
Date:7/19/2010

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. Monday, July 19, 2010 Kidney disease is a growing public health problem, with approximately half a million individuals in the United States requiring dialysis treatments to replace the function of their failed kidneys. The problem is particularly acute among African-Americans, whose rates of kidney disease are four times higher than those of European Americans.

As reported online this month by the journal Science, collaborating research groups found that patients with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) and hypertension-attributed end-stage kidney disease (H-ESKD) harbored variants in the APOL1 gene that changed the ApoL1 protein sequence. These variants are commonly found in individuals of recent African ancestry.

Furthermore, in a twist of evolutionary medicine, the disease-causing variants may have protected Africans against a lethal parasite, explaining why these genetic variants are so common in the population today.

Researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center contributed to and participated in this scientific team, led by investigators at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and the Universite Libre de Bruxelles. Together, they discovered a genetic explanation with evolutionary roots for the higher incidence of non-diabetic kidney disease in African-Americans.

"We found that the APOL1 risk genes for renal disease occur in more than 30 percent of African-American chromosomes," explained co-senior author Martin Pollak, M.D., chief of nephrology at BIDMC and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "In fact, the increased risk of kidney disease in individuals who inherited two copies of these variant forms of APOL1 is reported to be approximately 10-fold."

FSGS is a form of injury to the kidney's filtering system, which causes proteins to be lost into the urine and gradually reduces kidney function. ESKD, or end-stage kidney dis
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Contact: Jessica Guenzel
jguenzel@wfubmc.edu
336-716-3487
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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