Researchers Find Gene for Kidney Failure in People of African Heritage

August 12, 2014, 10:06am EDT

A group of Israeli researchers have identified a gene that increases the risk of kidney failure in people of African, and particularly sub–Saharan, descent. Upon further testing, this gene identification may revolutionize the prevention, detection, and treatment of chronic kidney disease in people at increased risk.

Dr. Karl Skorecki of Israel's Rambam Medical Center and his research team were among a group of independent teams that identified 34 genes, one in particular called MYH9, connected to kidney disease.

After these findings were announced, research teams examined MYH9 more closely, while Skorecki focused on some of the other genes. In March 2010, Skorecki received an update from the 1,000 Genomes Project, which provides data on the sequence of genes in 1,000 individuals from different parts of the world. Knowing that sub-Saharans have a much higher rate of kidney disease than Europeans, Skorecki’s team quickly began searching for mutations found frequently in the sub–Saharan population. After genotyping over 1,600 blood samples in collaboration with researchers in Britain, the United States and Ethiopia, the team found a gene called APOL1.

“Identifying the association of both APOL1 and MYH9 with kidney disease are significant steps forward in understanding the genetic profile that places individuals at risk for chronic kidney disease,” said Bryan Becker, President of the National Kidney Foundation. “Individuals found to have these genes should have their kidney function and blood pressure measured regularly. Carrying these genes does not guarantee you will have CKD, but it should motivate you to stay on top of your health.”

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