Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A single gene, called MYH9, may be responsible for many cases of kidney disease among African-Americans

Although doctors have blamed hypertension for causing common forms of kidney disease in African-Americans, new research shows that high blood pressure may not be the chief cause. "The MYH9 gene association in African-American kidney disease is the most powerful genetic cause of a common disease yet discovered," said Dr. Barry Freedman, professor of internal medicine and nephrology at Wake Forest University, who led a team of researchers in isolating the gene. About 70% of African-Americans with non-diabetic forms kidney disease have the MYH9 gene, and many of them end up on dialysis, he said. The gene predisposes African-Americans to the kidney disease that was thought to stem from high blood pressure. It also gives them a higher risk of kidney disease associated with HIV. "This genetic finding will forever change the way that we categorize the causes of kidney disease. It has the potential to lead to new treatment options to prevent this devastating disease," Freedman said. Kidney disease is a serious health issue among African-Americans, who have a fourfold higher risk of developing all common forms of it than whites in the United States.


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