UAB Logo Nephrotic syndrome may be triggered by the presence of excessive protein in the urine, low blood-protein levels, high cholesterol, high triglycerides and swelling or infections, certain drugs, cancer, genetic disorders, immune disorders or diseases. Scientists from the University of Alabama at Birmingham claim that a protein that compromises the kidney’s filtering ability leads to nephrotic syndrome and a naturally occurring precursor of an acid in the body can treat some forms of this ailment.

While conducting experiments on transgenic rats, it appeared that in certain types of nephrotic syndrome, the Angiopoietin-like 4 protein is over-produced withinin specialized cells known as podocytes. The glomerular filter that cleans the blood to produce urine may consist of these podocytes. Hence the over-production, the efficiency of this filter is probably compromised further leading to loss of blood proteins in the urine. In case the dysfunction is severe, it seemingly triggers nephrotic syndrome. The Angiopoietin-like 4 protein apparently lacks the attachment of adequate sialic acid. It’s known that sialic acid is a modified carbohydrate that affects the protein’s adhesive properties.

When an angiopoietin-like 4 was in podocytes, Sumant Singh Chugh, M.D., associate professor of medicine in the UAB Division of Nephrology, the study’s lead author and colleagues were supposedly able to raise the amount of protein-bound sialic acid. Experts were also capable of decreasing the quantity of protein leakage into the urine by more than 40 percent. Since sialic acid and ManNAc are naturally occurring substances in the body, toxicity may be limited. Relatively small doses of the sialic acid are assumingly effective for nephrotic syndrome, because the target cell in the kidney fail to divide under most conditions. Researchers anticipate that sialic acid repletion can be the future treatment of Minimal Change Disease and some other forms of nephrotic syndrome.

The research was published online on December 12 in Nature Medicine.