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Nanotechnology for Acute Kidney Injury

Dec 30, 2019 10:06:00 AM / by Stacy Matthews Branch, DVM, PhD

Origami crane, paper bird and bokeh background. shallow deep of_AdobeStock_84564179-1While there is no cure for acute kidney injury, a research team out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison may be shedding some new light on this condition.

Acute kidney injury (AKI) is characterized by a sudden decline in kidney function. This decline is marked by a significant rise in serum creatinine levels that may be accompanied by a reduction in urine output. Some cases of AKI require kidney transplantation or can lead to death. There are a number of causes of AKI, including injury from gadolinium-based contrast agents (nephrogenic systemic fibrosis), rhabdomyolysis, low blood volume, and vasculitis.

There is no cure for AKI, and treatment is a challenge that is traditionally approached by using antioxidant therapy with N-acetylcysteine (NAC). However, this drug has low bioavailability leading to limited effectiveness. A group of scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison studied the use of nanomedicine for the treatment of AKI. Nanomedicine is the use of biocompatible nanoscale materials for medical applications. This may be reminiscent of the 1960s science fiction story of a microscopic medical crew injected into a man to cure a brain tumor. Nanomedicine is the modern-day manifestation of this concept.

The research team used DNA origami to test the use of nanoparticles to treat AKI in vivo (mice) and in vitro (human embryonic kidney cells). DNA origami involves designing various molecular shapes from four nucleotide bases. These shapes, or nanostructures, have the capacity to self-assemble and attach to areas of the kidney to form protective covers around them and scavenge damaging reactive oxygen species.

Using positron emission tomography, the researchers were able to visualize the attachment of the DNA origami, and found that rectangular nanostructures provided the best protection similar to that of NAC. The protective effect was evident in a matter of a couple of hours, the structures were unaffected by the immune system or digestive enzymes, and no toxicity was noted. This concept can be tested further using disease-state primary cells such as those from people with AKI. Different types of disease-state primary cells can be tested to determine the potential of nanoparticles to approach other different difficult-to-treat kidney diseases.

It is through advanced research that new medical discoveries are made, and HemaCare is a proud supplier of cells and tissues to make this research possible.

Reference: Healing kidneys with nanotechnology. (2019). ScienceDaily. Retrieved 1 August 2019, from

Topics: Cell Therapy, Drug Discovery

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