Kidney stones found in fruit flies may hold key to treating humans

April 4, 2012

Kidney stones in fruit flies may hold the key to developing a treatment that could stop the formation of stones in humans, according to a research team from Mayo Clinic and the University of Glasgow.

Kidney stones in fruit flies may hold the key to developing a treatment that could stop the formation of stones in humans, according to a research team from Mayo Clinic and the University of Glasgow.

The researchers have shown that fruit flies rapidly and reliably develop kidney stones when exposed to certain dietary foods. The researchers now have the capability to see new stones at the moment of formation and follow them in real time down a microscope, said co-author Michael F. Romero, PhD, of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.

“The kidney tubule of a fruit fly is easy to study because it is transparent and accessible,” Dr. Romero said.

The team has identified a gene that encodes a protein that transports oxalate into the fly kidney. When this gene is genetically modified, flies form fewer stones, the study authors reported at the Genetics Society of America annual conference in Chicago. Dr. Romero and his colleagues are now using this gene as a target as they test gut, renal, and crystal dissolving therapies in fruit flies for possible drug development.

“This is the first time that we have been able to see new stones at the moment of formation,” co-author Julian Dow, PhD, of the University of Glasglow, Scotland explained. “We can now screen fruit flies for compounds that can stop new stones forming, and so one day perhaps we will be able to offer protection against recurrence for patients with a history of stone formation.”

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