New Test for Spotting Kidney Disorder

Membranous nephropathy can be detected using new blood test

(RxWiki News) When it comes to kidney disorders, an early diagnosis can make a huge difference in a patient's outcome. Doctors and patients may soon have a new test that can diagnose a certain kidney disorder in its early stages.

Researchers have developed a blood test that can help diagnose membranous nephropathy - a kidney disorder that happens when the immune system attacks the kidneys.

"A new test can detect a kidney disorder."

At the moment, the only way to diagnose membranous nephropathy is through a biopsy, a process that involves removing tissue from the body. Research conducted by Laurence Beck, M.D., Ph.D., and David Salant, M.D., - both from the Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center - has led to a new test that may lead to an earlier and easier diagnosis.

In 2009, Dr. Beck and Dr. Salant identified a biomarker, or sign, of membranous nephropathy. In people with this kidney disorder, antibodies attack glomeruli (the kidney's filters). When this happens, a large quantity of protein is released in the urine.

The researchers found that the antibodies were binding to a protein called PLA2R. Knowing the role of this protein, Dr. Beck and Dr. Salant were able to develop a blood test that spots and measures the amount of antibodies in a sample.

Membranous nephropathy is an autoimmune disease in which the kidney's filters, called glomeruli, become thick and dysfunctional. About one-third of people with membranous nephropathy will go on to develop kidney failure, needing either dialysis or a kidney transplant. Patients are treated using chemotherapy.

If chemotherapy works, the antibodies go away.

According to Dr. Beck, the ability to spot these antibodies using a blood test could have a huge impact on who gets treated and for how long. As treatment for membranous nephropathy can be toxic, early detection and treatment of the disorder could be very beneficial to patients.

For the past four years, Dr. Beck's research has received support in part by the Halpin Foundation. He is currently studying how targeting the antibodies and stopping them from attacking glomeruli could be a treatment for membranous nephropathy.

As it is still in the research stages, the new blood test is not yet available for consumer use.

The 2009 research by Dr. Beck and Dr. Salant was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Review Date: 
November 30, 2011