The presence of certain markers in the urine might be a red flag for acute kidney injury (AKI), says a new research.
The results suggest that a simple urine test could help prevent cases of kidney failure.
Unlike heart or brain injuries, which show obvious outward signs, AKI usually doesn't show any physical symptoms, which is why researchers are eager to find other signs of the disease.
Richard Zager of the Clinical Research Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and his colleagues investigated whether certain molecules that are produced during injury and infection might be excreted in the urine and serve as diagnostic markers.
They specifically measured the diagnostic potential of monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1), a protein that plays a role in recruiting immune cells to injured or infected sites in the body.
Previous studies have found MCP-1 in the joints of patients with rheumatoid arthritis and in the urine of people with lupus.
The study found that urine samples from mice and humans with AKI had elevated levels of MCP-1 as well as its mRNA (the template for protein synthesis).
This suggests that the gene that encodes MCP-1 and its mRNA is activated in patients with AKI.
Using a new technique called chromatin immunoprecipitation assay, the scientists were also able to show changes in proteins (known as histones) that can activate the gene that produces MCP-1.
This is the first study to show that these protein modifiers can be detected in human urine samples.
"This is a new diagnostic test that provides information about what processes are actually inducing acute kidney injury; however, a much larger prospective study is required to ultimately determine clinical utility," said Zager.
The research will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.