London researchers develop new methodology to detect salt in kidneys

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In a move that could eliminate the need for painful biopsies for people with kidney disease, London-based researchers have found a way to accurately measure the amount of salt in the organ.

Scientists at Lawson Health Research Institute developed new technology and software to adapt a PET/MRI machine at St Joseph’s Health Care London to perform the difficult imaging task.

“Kidney salts have only been imaged in preclinical models and in healthy, low-weight subjects,” said Dr. Christopher McIntyre, Lawson scientist and nephrologist at the London Health Sciences Centre. “Because the kidney is farther from the MRI coils and the organ moves when a person breathes, it’s definitely very difficult to imagine.”

In the first study of its kind, researchers using the new imaging technology looked at salt in the kidneys of ten healthy volunteers of different body types, five patients with kidney disease and patients with a combination of kidney disease and heart failure. For treatment, it is particularly important for kidney patients to be able to give up salt and water.

Currently, the only way doctors can get an idea of ​​a patient’s salinity is to perform a kidney biopsy.

“The problem is that the biopsies are painful, they have risks, and because it’s a small sample of the kidney, we don’t get an accurate perspective of the kidney as a whole,” McIntyre said. “This will now enable us to diagnose and treat both chronic and acute kidney diseases. It is a significant step forward.”

The study results were published in the journal Radiology.

In the next part of their research, the Lawson team will compare saline MRI findings to biopsies and explore potential new therapies.

“We hope that in the future we will have a higher level of confidence in predicting what will happen in the kidneys of these patients, with the possibility of using new targeted and effective treatments in the future,” said McIntyre.