Mayo Clinic researchers awarded federal grant to study inflammatory pathways in kidney stone disease

March 03, 2023

Mayo Clinic urologist Kevin Koo, M.D., M.P.H., was recently awarded a three-year research grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to study the role of inflammatory pathways in kidney stone formation.

Dr. Koo is part of a multidisciplinary research team. John C. Lieske, M.D., Nephrology and Hypertension, leads the team, which also includes collaborators Muthuvel Jayachandran, Ph.D., and Jose C. Villasboas Bisneto, M.D. The researchers are all urologists at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Kidney stone disease is one of the most common urologic conditions among U.S. adults. Recent epidemiologic studies have suggested that the prevalence of kidney stones has increased to nearly 1 in 10 among all genders. Half of these individuals will experience multiple symptomatic kidney stones during their lifetimes.

"Kidney stones affect millions of individuals and can lead to recurrent, painful episodes that require hospitalization and emergency surgery," says Dr. Koo, who also is an assistant professor of Urology at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science.

"We are excited to be leading new discoveries that can help unravel one of the enduring mysteries in our field: why and how kidney stones form," he says.

Macrophages are inflammatory cells that appear to play a role in whether kidney stone precursors go on to develop into stones. A recent study by the researchers suggested that higher levels of calcium deposits in the kidney stimulated proinflammatory macrophages in patients who formed clinically significant stones compared with controls. The study was published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

"This preliminary work lays the foundation for detailed immunological and genetic studies that will examine the process of kidney stone formation at the cellular and molecular levels," says Dr. Lieske, who is a professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science and the senior author of the study.

The grant establishes a Fostering Research With Additional Resources and Development (FORWARD) urology center in Rochester, the first of its kind at Mayo Clinic. Dr. Koo and his collaborators also will join the NIDDK-sponsored Collaborating for the Advancement of Interdisciplinary Research in Benign Urology (CAIRIBU) program, a network of scientists and trainees at 10 leading research programs across the U.S. The grant extends the long history of leadership in kidney stone research at Mayo Clinic and advances its impact in pioneering clinical innovation and translational discovery.

"We are proud of this long-standing research collaboration at Mayo Clinic, and excited that the NIH has supported the innovative efforts of Dr. Koo and his team," says Stephen A. Boorjian, M.D., a urologist and chair of Urology at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

"This competitive grant underscores our commitment to advancing novel research in kidney stone disease that will improve the care of patients at Mayo Clinic and beyond," Boorjian adds.

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