A team of researchers has discovered an insidious new autoimmune disease that causes kidney failure.
The discovery of anti-brush border antibody (ABBA) disease was made at the University of Louisville Core Proteomics Laboratory, led by Director Jon B. Klein.
“It’s the first time in my career that I’ve described a new disease, and truthfully, most people in their career don’t stumble on this,” said Klein. “We don’t know yet whether this causes kidney failure in a lot of people. It’s early in the story.”
The UofL lab identified ABBA after analyzing biopsied kidney tissue from 10 patients who had developed acute kidney injury, a sudden episode of kidney failure or damage that happens within a few hours or days. The condition causes a build-up of waste products in the blood and makes it difficult for kidneys to maintain the adequate balance of fluid in the body.
For the first time, researchers discovered that in the nephrons, the functional units of the kidneys had coated a specialized part of cells called brush borders, which help reabsorb and process proteins.
“The disease is rather insidious,” Klein said. “It was documented in a group of older men who simply turned up with abnormal kidney function, and there were no symptoms until they had very advanced kidney failure.”
Since it is an autoimmune disease, different approaches to suppress the immune system were used to treat the patients, but those efforts were unsuccessful, Klein said.
Klein said the disease had gone undetected because most people with abrupt kidney failure recover and do not get biopsies. In cases of ABBA, however, kidneys do not improve.
Klein and co-investigators presented their findings at the American Society of Nephrology’s annual meeting in New Orleans.