UR Physicians Boost Knowledge of Kidney Problems

June 19, 2003

Two University of Rochester Medical Center researchers made significant contributions to the understanding of kidney function, with findings published in major scientific journals this month.

A team led by George Schwartz, M.D., a pediatric nephrologist, for the first time demonstrated that key cells in the kidney can remodel themselves in response to environmental stress. Scientists have long known that kidney, intestinal and skin cells can adapt to various stresses, but never before have kidney cells been directly observed to undergo a major transformation in response to excessive acid in the blood. Furthermore, now researchers know that an inability of kidney cells to successfully adapt may be the cause of renal tubular acidosis, a special interest of Schwartz's, that causes failure to thrive and bone softening in children.

Schwartz's findings were reported in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, a biweekly publication that examines the basic science behind emerging areas of medicine. Schwartz is director of Strong Children's Research Center at the UR Medical Center.

In addition, today's edition of The New England Journal of Medicine contains an editorial by David Bushinsky, M.D., chief of Strong Memorial Hospital's Nephrology Unit. Bushinsky supported the journal's featured research on the diet that would best prevent kidney stones, a painful condition that afflicts about 10 percent of Americans during a lifetime. Bushinsky advised physicians to no longer prescribe the conventional, low-calcium diet. Rather, new research showed that reducing animal proteins and salt, while continuing a normal calcium intake, is superior for preventing recurrences of stones.

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