More than half a million Americans go to the emergency room, every year, to deal with kidney stone issues. Most of the time kidney stones pass out of the body on their own but, of course, this process can be extremely painful. And then, of course, there are those few who have complications around their kidney stones and must seek additional assistance.
This week, however, researchers from MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital say they have devised what might be a proper treatment that could make the kidney-stone-passing process faster and, most importantly, less painful. The team identified a drug combination that helps to relax the walls of the ureter: that is the tube that connects the kidneys with the bladder. This pair of drugs can be delivered directly to the ureter through a catheter-like instrument.
Effectively, by relaxing the ureter the stones should be able to pass through more easily; at least, in theory.
Kidney stones consist of hard crystals that accumulate in the kidneys, over time, when there is too much solid waste in the urine and not enough liquid to rinse it out. Medical data estimates that roughly ten percent of adults will experience a kidney stone in their lives.
Christopher Lee is a recent PhD recipient in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology. The study co-author explains, “We found several drugs that had the effect that we expected, and in every case we found that the concentrations required to be effective were more than would be safe if given systemically.”
Lee explains that kidney stone treatment has remained pretty much the same for the past thirty years even though the resounding new evidence suggests that the drugs we’ve been using do not work very well. Thus, a new treatment like this certainly has the potential to help an abundance of patients.
MIT Department of Materials Science and Engineering David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research Professor Michael Cima rejoices “We think this could significantly impact kidney stone disease, which affects millions of people.”
The lead study author goes on to advise that this type of treatment could also serve patients who need a stent in the ureter. This is a procedure commonly administered after passing a kidney stone, which helps to prevent the tube from collapsing or becoming blocked.
The results of this study has been published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering