Gene therapy has gained momentum in the past year, following the federal government's approval of the first such treatments for inherited retinal diseases and hard-to-treat leukemia. Now, research led by scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has shown, in mice, that genetic material can be delivered to damaged cells in the kidneys, a key step toward developing gene therapy to treat chronic kidney disease. The potentially fatal condition affects 30 million Americans, most of whom don't realize they have chronic kidney disease. No cure exists, and current treatments for end-stage disease mostly are limited to dialysis and kidney transplant. However, the researchers said gene therapy could provide a way to deliver genes that slow or reverse cell damage that leads to chronic kidney disease. The findings were published online on July 5, 2018 in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. The article is titled “Efficient Gene Transfer to Kidney Mesenchymal Cells Using a Synthetic Adeno-Associated Viral Vector.” "Chronic kidney disease is an enormous and growing problem," said senior author Benjamin D. Humphreys, MD, PhD, Director of the Division of Nephrology at Washington University. "Unfortunately, over the years, we haven't developed more effective drugs for the condition, and this reality is leading us to explore gene therapy." Diabetes, hypertension, and other conditions cause chronic kidney disease, which occurs when damaged kidneys cannot effectively filter waste and excess fluids from the body. Because symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, sleep disturbances, and swollen limbs are common and nonspecific to the disease, most people don't realize they have chronic kidney disease until irreparable organ damage occurs.
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