Higher Levels of Mitochondrial DNA May Mean Lower Risk of Kidney Disease

Higher Levels of Mitochondrial DNA May Mean Lower Risk of Kidney Disease

The health of blood cells’ energy-producing mitochondria may predict a person’s risk of developing chronic kidney disease (CKD). These are the results of a study titled “Association between Mitochondrial DNA Copy Number in Peripheral Blood and Incident CKD in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study,” published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, which could lead to improvements in the prevention and treatment of CKD.

Estimates indicate that around 26 million people in the U.S. suffer from chronic kidney disease. Mitochondrial dysfunction (cellular components that produce energy) in kidney cells has been implicated in the cause of the disease. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) copy number is a surrogate measure of mitochondrial function, and higher mtDNA copy number in peripheral blood has been associated with lower risk of two important risk factors for CKD progression: diabetes and microalbuminuria.

Researchers led by Adrienne Tin, Ph.D., from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, studied whether the number of copies of mitochondrial genes in blood could be a marker for the risk of CKD.

The team evaluated data from 9,058 patients taking part in the the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study, an epidemiologic research study conducted in four communities in the U.S.

Over an average 19.6 years of follow-up, the results showed that higher levels of mitochondrial DNA copy number were associated with a lower risk of CKD. Even after the team adjusted for age, race, sex, hypertension and diabetes, those with greater levels of mitochondrial DNA copy number had a 25 percent lower CKD risk in comparison with participants with the lowest levels of mitochondrial DNA copy number. So, higher mitochondrial DNA appears to be associated with lower incidence of CKD, independent of traditional risk factors and inflammation biomarker levels.

“This result suggests modifiable factors influencing mitochondrial DNA copy number may be potential targets for the prevention and treatment of CKD,” Tin said in a news release.

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Daniela holds a PhD in Clinical Psychology from The University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom, a MSc in Health Psychology and a BSc in Clinical Psychology. Her work has been focused on vulnerability to psychopathology and early identification and intervention in psychosis.

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