Calgary

Breakthrough by U of C researchers could help prevent kidney damage from contrast dyes

Dr. Dan Muruve, chief of nephrology in southern Alberta, was part of the research team and says they have been able to show, for the first time, how contrast dyes can injure kidneys.

'This opens up new potential to develop therapeutic approaches targeted at the right type of mechanisms'

Dr. Dan Muruve, chief of nephrology in southern Alberta, explains new research from the University of Calgary which may help avoid kidneys being damaged by contrast dye used in testing. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

When Sam Hannon had a heart attack two years ago, he was rushed to hospital and underwent two angioplasty procedures, which used a considerable amount of contrast dyes.

Two months later, he was back in the emergency department with his kidney functioning at 13 per cent.

"What I understand now is that the dyes they used to see and follow the blockages of my heart,  affected the kidneys," he said.

New research at the University of Calgary may help shed light on why.

Dr. Dan Muruve, chief of nephrology in southern Alberta, was part of the research team and says they have been able to show, for the first time, how contrast dyes can injure that organ.

Two months after suffering a heart attack, Sam Hannon was back in hospital suffering kidney failure. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

When the kidneys are fully hydrated, the dye is flushed out.

But in dehydrated kidneys, the dye is absorbed, which causes inflammation that can lead to serious damage.

"We know that in about 10 per cent of patients, contrast [dye] can injure the kidneys," said Muruve.

"Now, for most people, it's fine, the message I don't want to come out is that you should avoid your medical procedures because the majority of people … will receive contrast dye and they'll be fine. But for a small portion of people, there's a risk."

Dr. Matthew James is a kidney specialist who collaborated on research and says it could allow for the development of new therapies.

"One problem in this area has been very poor understanding of the mechanisms of the kidney, so other therapies that have been tried probably were not targeting the right types of pathways," he said.

"This opens up new potential to develop therapeutic approaches that are targeted at the right type of mechanisms that are likely contributing to these injuries in many patients."

Muruve says they have also identified and tested a drug that stops the kidney from absorbing the dye.

They hope to translate those findings into clinical trials.

With files from Terri Trembath

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