Research leads to a Potential New Option in Treating Chronic Kidney Disease

Jeanie Park, MD, ACTSI-supported investigator and assistant professor of medicine, Renal Division, Emory University and Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medicine Center, studied a possible new treatment for chronic kidney disease (CKD): tetrahydrobiopterin. The overactivation of the sympathetic nervous system significantly increases risk for cardiovascular disease and sudden cardiac death for those with chronic kidney disease. FDA-approved tetrahydrobiopterin might just offer a promising way to lower sympathetic activity and thereby lower cardiovascular risk in these patients.

Park’s latest research was recently published in the American Journal of Physiology (Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology), and indicates that the treatment has significant effects on lowering muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA), a reflection of elevated adrenaline levels, and central pulse wave reflections in hypertensive patients with chronic disease. This project received support from the Georgia CTSA Clinical Research Centers (GCRCs) in terms of nursing staff, space, and bionutrition and lab support. The ACTSI’s Biostatistics, Epidemiology, & Research Design (BERD) also provided the statistical analyses on the study. BERD also contributed to Park’s past research on the effects of mindfulness meditation on sympathetic activity in CKD patients. “The ACTSI provides the nursing, laboratory, exam space, and clinical support to successfully conduct our human physiology studies and clinical trials. The biostatistical consultants are invaluable for providing statistical support for our ongoing patient-oriented studies,” said Park.

The next step will be to study the potential benefits of tetrahydrobiopterin on exercise intolerance which also increases risk in CKD. These patients often have exaggerated increases in blood pressure and MSNA in response to physical exercise, leading to exercise dysfunction and cardiovascular risk. This project is sponsored by the ACTSI’s GCRCs, and the specialized equipment for the study is housed in the GCRCs exercise physiology lab. Finally, the GCRCs also provided support to Parks’s research on the mechanisms of intradialytic hypertension, and whether mindfulness meditations might improve blood pressure during dialysis.

The ACTSI is a city-wide partnership between Emory, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Georgia Tech and is one of a national consortium striving to improve the way biomedical research is conducted across the country. The consortium, funded through the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences one of the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical and Translational Science Awards, shares a common vision to translate laboratory discoveries into treatments for patients, engage communities in clinical research efforts, and train the next generation of clinical investigators.