A group of United States based researchers – including a Greek scientist – proposed a new kidney stone treatment involving hydroxycitric acid (HCA), which is contained in fruits, and it can dissolve the stones.
The scientists are in the process of verifying the results of their research through large clinical trials. If they are successful it will be the first substantial progress in kidney stone preventive treatment in the last 30 years.
Kidney stones are small, hard calcium oxalate crystals, which gradually accumulate in the kidneys. About 12% of men and 7% of women have such stones. Hypertension, diabetes and obesity increase the risk, while the incidents have increased in recent years.
Preventive treatment for nephrolithiasis has not changed a lot over the last three decades. Doctors recommend that patients at risk drink plenty of water and avoid foods rich in oxalate, such as spinach, okra, almonds, rhubarb etc. Furthermore, they also suggest taking potassium citrate, which can slow the stone formation process, however, some people suffer side-effects from this treatment.
The researchers, led by Jeffrey Rimer, associate professor of chemical engineering at the University of Houston, published their research in the Nature magazine. They studied the effect of hydroxycitric acid and found that it can dissolve the crystals of calcium oxalate. After a comparative study of the two substances in the laboratory and on seven people, they found that hydroxycitric acid (HCA) is more efficient.
“We were very excited to identify a molecular-level mechanism under which calcium oxalate grows and degrades in its natural environment,” said Giannis Mpourmpakis, assistant professor of chemical and petroleum engineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering. “Eventually, this will help us control the crystal’s life cycle.”
Mpourmpakis graduated from the Department of Chemistry of the University of Crete in 2001, where he also received his PhD in 2006.