UNM Pathology Research Study: A tiny defect, a terrible disease, and a new approach to Polycystic Kidney Disease

December 12, 2011 - Department of Pathology

Heather Ward, PhD, MT(ASCP), Research Assistant Professor in UNM Pathology, presented work on Polycystic Kidney Disease at the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) in Denver Colorado in December 2011.  Dr. Ward’s work was selected as “Novel and Newsworthy” by ASCB and ASCB produced the You-tube video and attached press release.

Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) is a life-threatening genetic disorder that affects 600,000 Americans according to the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Half of patients with PKD will progress to end-stage renal disease by age 60.

In collaboration with Dr. Angela Wandinger-Ness, Dr. Leslie Danielson, Dr. Scott Ness and Dr. Gavin Pickett at UNM and with guidance from Dr. Ben Cowley at Oklahoma University and Dr. Carrie Phillips at Indiana University, Dr. Ward used relaxin to treat the PKD rat model’s noncystic aspects of PKD progression, including poor blood flow and extensive internal scarring, called fibrosis.  Relaxin is a normal human pregnancy hormone that relaxes blood vessels to allow for increased blood flow in pregnant women. Relaxin also controls signaling pathways and stimulates degradation of extracellular matrix within organ tissues via collagen-dissolving proteins.  PKD rats treated with relaxin had lower collagen scores in their kidneys, indicating that either scar formation was slowing down or the old fibroid tissue was breaking up.  Cysts seemed smaller in treated rats.  The dramatic improvement in renal function and decreased fibrosis in the rat models make relaxin a promising candidate for treating PKD.

Download the press release. pdf icon