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The cognitive problems that can occur in patients with chronic renal failure might be alleviated by certain antioxidants, say US researchers.

Scientists at the University of California, Irvine, found that rodent models of chronic renal failure had higher levels of nitrotyrosine, a marker of oxidative damage caused by the interaction of oxygen free radicals with nitric oxide, in areas of their cerebral cortex than healthy control rats.

However, by treating the rats with kidney failure with an antioxidant called des-methyl-tirilizad, the scientists were able to lower the levels of molecules responsible for the oxidative stress. “This study shows how free radicals and nitric oxide interact to produce oxidative stress and help cause these neurological dysfunctions,” said Dr Nick Vaziri, head of the research. “It also may provide a way to treat these disorders,” he said.//

Dr Vaziri suggested that it might be possible to link the results with similar events that occur in the nervous system in other disorders, such as in Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s disease. “However, more studies are needed to determine if this could be useful in humans,” he said.

The researchers are hopeful that antioxidants might be used in the future to treat, or even to prevent, cognitive dysfunction. An estimated 100,000 people in the UK suffer from some form of kidney disease, excluding cystitis and kidney stones, with renal failure leading to about 7,000 deaths in the UK each year.

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