The University of Manchester

Boffins discover that cells extracted from wee could be used to diagnose kidney problems

Genes expressed in human cells collected from urine closely resemble those found in the kidney itself, suggesting they could be a valuable non-invasive source of information about kidney health.

This breakthrough raises the possibility that in the future, doctors may be able to investigate kidney issues without resorting to invasive procedures like biopsies. This could lead to earlier and simpler detection of diseases, potentially improving outcomes for patients.

Late detection of kidney disease can have serious consequences, sometimes even life-threatening. The team of scientists, led by experts from the University of Manchester, analysed the levels of around 20,000 genes in urine samples using a technique called transcriptomics.

Funded by the British Heart Foundation, the study benefited from access to a vast collection of human kidney samples from the Human Kidney Tissue Resource at the University of Manchester. By extracting DNA and RNA from these samples and combining the data with information from previous studies on blood pressure, the researchers were able to identify potential causes of high blood pressure.

One gene, known as ENPEP, was found to play a crucial role in regulating blood pressure. This discovery could pave the way for the development of new medications to lower blood pressure.

The study, published in Nature Communications, was led by Professor Maciej Tomaszewski from the University of Manchester. He highlighted the potential of using urine cells to gain insights into kidney function, opening up new possibilities for non-invasive diagnostic testing.

Professor Tomaszewski stressed the importance of early detection and treatment of high blood pressure, as it can increase the risk of serious conditions such as heart disease and strokes. He also emphasised the need for new, more effective medications to manage high blood pressure.

Professor Bryan Williams, Chief Scientific and Medical Officer at the British Heart Foundation, praised the study for its innovative approach to analysing kidney genes. He highlighted the potential of this research to improve diagnosis and treatment for people with high blood pressure.

The study, titled “Genetic imputation of kidney transcriptome, proteome and multi-omics illuminates 2 new blood pressure and hypertension targets,” is available for further reading.

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