The Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine is researching how cats with chronic kidney disease may one day help improve human treatment.
In humans, treatment for chronic kidney disease – a condition in which the kidneys are damaged and cannot filter the blood as well as they should – focuses on slowing the progression of organ damage. The disease can lead to end-stage kidney failure, which is fatal without dialysis or a kidney transplant. An estimated 37 million people in the United States have chronic kidney disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that there are approximately 58 million cats in the United States. Chronic kidney disease affects 30-50% of cats over the age of 15. The fibrosis or scarring that occurs as a result of the disease is a common end-route for kidney disease in both animals and humans. In cats, end-stage kidney disease has no effective cure.
In a new study published online by Frontiers in Veterinary Science on the Veterinary Regenerative Medicine platform, the WFIRM research team wanted to test the effects of cell-based molecular therapy for treating kidney fibrosis in cats. Regenerative therapies using stem cells and vascular fractions have been tested, but the collection of cells or cell fractions is expensive, time consuming, and requires advanced cell processing functions not available in most general veterinary practices.
Alternatively, “Using cell-based molecules to treat kidney fibrosis may be a promising approach,” said lead author Julie Bennington, DVM, a WFIRM research fellow and PhD student. “Current treatments include pharmaceutical therapies and diet management to slow disease progression and increase life expectancy. Alternatives are needed.”
In this study, the authors used a cell signal chemokine – CXCL12 – that is produced by cells and stimulates tissue regeneration. Recombinant human CXCL12 is commercially available, inexpensive and has been shown to reduce fibrosis in rodent models of chronic kidney disease.
The aim of this study was to test the safety, feasibility, and efficacy of ultrasonically guided intra-renal CXCL12 injection in cats with chronic renal fibrosis, first in a preclinical feline model and then in a pilot study in cats where it may be early Kidney disease.
“The results of these studies together show that intra-renal injection of CXCL12 may be a potential new therapy for the treatment of early-stage kidney disease in cats, which is widespread,” said co-author Koudy Williams, DVM, also of WFIRM. “More clinical evaluations are needed.”
Piedmont Animal Health, the company that funded the research, is preparing to set up a pilot clinical trial in the United States and Bennington will serve as an advisor.
WFIRM Director Anthony Atala, MD said this research is a good example of “how a condition such as chronic kidney disease, which occurs in both dogs and cats, can be studied and potentially applied to the disease in humans.”
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
J. Bennington et al. (2021) Chemokine therapy in cats with experimental kidney fibrosis and in a pilot study on kidney disease. Blood advances. doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2021.646087.