Study shows hope for cats and humans with chronic kidney disease

The general percentage of cats older than 15 who suffer from chronic kidney disease (CKD) is about 30%. And, with an estimated 37 million human sufferers in the US, it’s a serious health problem for both species.

The highly complex disease is difficult to diagnose because current detection methods only reveal its presence once significant kidney damage has occurred, and tubulointerstitial fibrosis—scarring of the kidney tissue—is a major component in both feline and human kidney disease. As a result, intervention and treatment are challenging. While no definitive cure for CKD in cats exists, treatment can improve and prolong the lives of cats with this disease.

But an experimental treatment described in a recent study shows promise for treating both cats and humans.

A collaboration between researchers based in North Carolina and Indonesia, the treatment involves an intrarenal injection of a recombinant human chemokine, CXCL12.

Over the course of two studies—one a preclinical cat model, the other a clinical pilot of 14 client-owned cats with potential early kidney disease—researchers were able to show that intrarenal injection of CXCL12 may be an effective treatment for kidney fibrosis and is feasible for use in a general-practice clinical setting.

“Current treatments include pharmaceutical therapies and dietary management to slow disease progression and increase longevity, and alternatives are needed,” said corresponding author Julie Bennington, DVM, a research fellow at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine and PhD candidate. “The use of cell-based molecules to treat kidney fibrosis may be a promising approach.”

Chemokines are proteins best known for their role in stimulating the migration of cells—most notably white blood cells—and play a vital role in the development and regulation of the immune system. CXCL12 stimulates tissue regeneration and has been shown to reduce fibrosis in rodent models of CKD.

“Results of these studies together show that intrarenal injection of CXCL12 may be a potential new therapy to treat early kidney disease in cats with a capability for widespread use,” said lead researcher Koudy Williams, DVM, professor of pathology at the Wake Forest School of Medicine.

That potential widespread use includes the possibility of using chemokine therapy to treat kidney disease in humans as well as cats.

“This is a good example of how a disease that is common to both animals and humans can be studied and potentially applied to the disease in humans,” Williams added, although he says further clinical evaluations are needed.

That’s in the process of happening—Piedmont Animal Health, which funded the research, is preparing a clinical pilot study in the US, with Bennington serving as a consultant.

If the pilot study is as successful as the initial studies suggest, the results could be a win-win for cats and humans.

Photo credit: © Evgeniia Gordeeva /iStock/Getty Images Plus via Getty images

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