Unraveling Oxidative Stress’ Effects on the Kidneys

Photo of Dr. Oleg PalyginWith each breath we take, we replenish the oxygen that our body needs to function. However, it’s important that our organs maintain a balanced level of oxygen. When out of balance, oxygen products turn into the highly reactive molecules known as free radicals.

Where there is a high enough level of these reactive oxygen molecules in the body, this creates a condition known as oxidative stress, and it can contribute to progressive kidney damage and plays a significant role in the development of salt-sensitive hypertension.

Oleg Palygin, 38, an Assistant Professor of Physiology at the Medical College of Wisconsin, is studying how oxidative stress contributes to the progression of hypertension and kidney damage. With the help of a National Kidney Foundation Young Investigators Grant, he is searching for genetic targets and effective strategies to reduce oxidative stress in patients with kidney disease and patients who may be on their way to developing hypertensive kidney disease.

“We’re gaining new insights into kidney biology to further understand whether oxidative stress is a cause or a consequence of hypertension,” Dr. Palygin said. “Once we understand the relationship, we may be able to find an effective therapeutic strategy to reduce oxidative damage to the kidneys and to better control blood pressure.”

With support from the National Kidney Foundation, Dr. Palygin’s team has already published their novel approach to studying this particular problem in the Journal of Visualized Experiments. The process they developed involves the use of tools called biosensors.  When biosensor placed in the kidney it detects changes in the levels of specific reactive oxygen molecule, like hydrogen peroxide, to better reveal the mechanisms of kidney biology. The follow-up study on oxidative stress and its relationship to the kidneys and hypertension will be published in 2016.

“My hope is that this research will ultimately improve diagnosis and treatment of oxidative stress and hypertension,” Dr. Palygin said. “Understanding these processes will be essential for determining the contribution of oxidative stress to increases in hypertension and how proper regulation of hydrogen peroxide in the kidney affects blood pressure.”

The result of this research can have direct effects on the strategies used by physicians when selecting a therapeutic approach for treating an individual with kidney disease and will provide clinicians with an improved understanding of the processes leading to abnormal salt and water levels in the kidney.

“I am particularly interested in how extracellular and intracellular signaling pathways lead to modulation of renal transport, which can result in systemic changes in salt and water balance and ultimately affect blood pressure,” Dr. Palygin said. “With this research, I believe that we are on the way to develop new strategies to treat renal diseases, which will likely be in the near future and will have a profound impact on patient treatment for hypertension, diabetes and other associated pathologies.”