Scientists Find Solutions in Biomimetic Approach to Battle Chronic Kidney Disease in Human Beings

October 11 01:20 2018

It is through some convinced genetic alterations that the process of evolution has resulted in a diverse variety of adaptations to different environments in the animal kingdom. Studies show that many of the more than two million animal species that inhabit earth have developed resourceful survival mechanisms that provide resistance to many chronic life-threatening diseases including obesity, dehydration, chronic kidney disease (CKD), osteoporosis, muscle wasting, premature aging and so on. These species have obtained adaptive mutations through natural selection in order to survive in challenging environments, such as long cold winters, deep sea water diving, and life in burrows and deserts. It would, therefore, make a revolutionary change if scientists from multidisciplinary fields, not only subdisciplines within medicine but also ecology, botany, anthropology, technology, zoology, biology and veterinary medicine, come together to investigate these mechanisms in other species and acclimatize the findings to develop novel strategies in the field of human medicine.

Amongst these major problems, the one disease for which solutions may be found in the animal kingdom is CKD. The worldwide status of the victims affected by CKD is a point of recent concern and if CKD would be a country it would be the 3rdlargest country in the world. This disease also associates with many complications found in the aging population, such as osteoporosis, depression, cardiovascular diseases and muscle wasting.

Reputed researcher and senior lecturer at Karolinska University Hospital and Professor of Nephrology at Karolinska Institute, Peter Stenvinkel with his group have a new step to deal with CKD in human beings. Together with researchers fromUniversity of Colorado in Denver, USA, Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology in Vienna, Austria, Wolfson Wohl Translational Research Centre in Glasgow, UK, Jichi Medical University in Japan and the Scandinavian brown bear project they have found out that animal mechanisms and biomimetic approach may offer a golden opportunity to identify novel treatment strategies to improve the healthcare and prognosis of patients with CKD.

The novel discipline of biomimetics offers an innovative approach to solve human problems by imitating strategies available in nature. The concept of biomimicry contends that nature, through the natural process of evolution, has already solved many of the problems humans are grappling with today. While the interest in biomimetic research has increased markedly over the last couple of years, studies have been mainly restricted to the physical sciences, such as chemistry, materials, and engineering. Peter Stenvinkel and a multidisciplinary group of experts are of the view that biomimetics can extensively benefit also medical research and to accomplish this there is an immense need to increase the collaboration between experts from different fields apart from nephrology. Therefore, there is every possible chance to deal with CKD only when an expert from various fields work together.

During years of study and review of the literature, several fascinating mechanisms were detected to protect against premature aging and safeguard kidney function that evolved during evolution. To substantiate this analogy there are examples of naked mole rats that has the ability to sustain in extreme conditions in burrows can be used as a model of longevity. Studies of hibernating bears could assist to identify new strategies to treat and thwart obstacles such as muscle wasting, osteoporosis, azotemia, and inflammation during longer periods of their winter sleep. Furthermore, studies of deep sea diving mammals, such as seals could offer novel strategies to protect kidneys and avoid acute kidney disease during prolonged periods of hypoxemia. Biomimetic studies of wild animals may also offer many other answers that could benefit human medicine. Why is cancer so rare in elephants? How do some animals protect themselves during long periods of water shortage? What are the potential uses of the unique properties of spider silk in human medicine? However, while some animals survive with the help of serendipitous genetic adaptations, others remain susceptible to the same diseases and complications. Thus, since felids, such as tigers and domestic cats, are susceptible to CKD this may suggest that frequent consumption of red meat may contribute to CKD in humans.

The efficient team of Peter Stenvinkel is comparing examples from veterinary and human medicine as well as from the field of biology to learn about the development of other specific problems and then minimize them in the future. This is indeed another great example of medical science and technology. For every human disease, we encounter it may be relevant to ask “How did nature solve this?”

Reference: Stenvinkel P, Painer J, Kuro-O M, Lanaspa M, Arnold W, Ruf T, Shiels PG, Johnson RJ. Novel treatment strategies for chronic kidney disease: insights from the animal kingdom. Nat Rev Nephrol. 2018 Apr;14(4):265-284.

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