Charcoal may provide a new approach to managing the high rate of heart disease in patients with advanced kidney disease, according to preliminary research being presented at the American Society of Nephrology’s 42nd Annual Meeting and Scientific Exposition in San Diego, CA.
Patients with advanced kidney disease have high rates of atherosclerosis (“hardening of the arteries”) and death from heart disease. Oral activated charcoal — a product called AST-120 — has traditionally been used as an emergency treatment for certain types of poisoning. Recent studies have suggested that AST-120 may exert beneficial effects in kidney disease.
“We found that oral activated charcoal lessens atherosclerotic lesions in experimental mice with kidney damage,” comments Valentina Kon, MD (Vanderbilt University). “This is especially important because there is no effective treatment to reduce the high rate of cardiovascular mortality in patients with end-stage renal disease.”
The researchers studied the effects of AST-120 in mice genetically engineered to develop atherosclerosis. The effects were assessed in mice with different levels of kidney mass.
In mice with profoundly reduced renal mass, treatment with AST-120 led to a dramatic decrease in atherosclerosis. This was so even when charcoal treatment was delayed. The improvement in atherosclerosis was unrelated to changes in blood pressure or cholesterol levels. Rather, the effect appeared related to reduced inflammation in the blood vessels.
In mice, oral activated charcoal appears to reduce atherosclerosis associated with kidney disease. The effect is present at different levels of kidney function, in very advanced atherosclerosis, and even when treatment is delayed. More research is needed to see if AST-120 offers similar benefits in humans with kidney disease.
The research was supported by Kureha Chemical Industry Co., Ltd., Tokyo, which makes AST-120.
EDITOR: The study abstract, “Oral Activated Charcoal Adsorbent, AST-120 Inhibits Severe Atherosclerosis Induced by Chronic Kidney Damage (CKD),” (SA-FC481) will be presented as part of a Free Communication Session during the American Society of Nephrology’s 42nd Annual Meeting and Scientific Exposition at 4:24 pm on Saturday, October 31 in Room 22 of the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, CA.
ASN Renal Week 2009, the largest nephrology meeting of its kind, will provide a forum for 13,000 professionals to discuss the latest findings in renal research and engage in educational sessions related to advances in the care of patients with kidney and related disorders. Renal Week 2009 will take place October 27 — November 1 at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego.
Founded in 1966, the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) is the world’s largest professional society devoted to the study of kidney disease. Comprised of 11,000 physicians and scientists, ASN continues to promote expert patient care, to advance medical research, and to educate the renal community. ASN also informs policymakers about issues of importance to kidney doctors and their patients. ASN funds research, and through its world-renowned meetings and first-class publications, disseminates information and educational tools that empower physicians.