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Published on 5 November 2009

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New drug hope for hyperkalemia


A new class of drug to prevent potentially fatal potassium build-up in the blood may result from research published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

A team at the University of Maryland School of Medicine has identified a new molecular pathway that prevents the chemical being excreted normally through the kidneys.

The condition, known as hyperkalemia, is a relatively common medical problem that affects about 8% of hospital patients.

Says Professor Paul Welling: “We are particularly excited about the translational potential of our basic science discovery.

“There are no drugs that specifically target this molecular defect, and a new class of drugs will allow damaged kidneys to continue to properly excrete potassium in the urine.”

Potassium is critical for proper functioning of muscles, nerves and the heart, while the kidneys are primarily responsible for eliminating any excess in the blood stream.

A kidney gene known as ROMK (renal outer medullary k+ channel) controls the levels of potassium excretion in the kidney.

In people with kidney disease, the protein made by this gene no longer signals properly to ensure adequate excretion through the urine.

Copyright Press Association 2009

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