Health & Science

Drug Treatment For Kidney Stones Hasn’t Changed Much In 30 Years – Until Now

University of Houston researcher Dr. Jeffrey Rimer and his colleagues have identified a substance that could potentially reduce kidney stone growth by 90 percent.

Dr. Jeffrey Rimer
Dr. Jeffrey Rimer at work in the lab at the University of Houston.

In the last 30 years, not much has changed in terms of drug treatment for kidney stones. But that could be about to change.

University of Houston researcher Dr. Jeffrey Rimer and his colleagues have identified a substance that could potentially reduce kidney stone growth by 90 percent. And they’ve found some potential new molecules that could dissolve stones — or prevent them from forming altogether.

Jeffrey Rimer In The Lab
Dr. Jeffrey Rimer (left) works in the lab at the University of Houston.

Kidney stones form when the body has trouble clearing crystal-forming substances from the kidneys, such as calcium oxalate or uric acid. Or sometimes substances that prevent crystals from sticking together are absent from the urine. Either way, once crystals form and grow larger, they can become painful obstructions of urine flow.

Now, Rimer and his partners have found that the compound hydroxycitrate significantly impedes stones from growing. Hydroxycitrate is a natural component of the fruit garcinia cambogia (also known as the Malabar tamarind). If that name sounds familiar, that’s because it’s already being sold as a supplement that’s gotten a lot of press for possible weight loss benefits.

Such supplements are not studied and approved by the FDA, but, because garcinia cambogia is already on shelves, that means Rimer’s partners at NYU have already been able to start some clinical trials involving it. Once ingested, they wanted to find out whether hydroxycitrate would make it to the kidneys intact. So far, the studies have shown it does.

Jeffrey Rimer With a Student
Dr. Jeffrey Rimer (right) works in the lab at the University of Houston.

Dr. Rimer is quick to point out that it’s still far too early for anyone to run out and start taking garcinia cambogia to prevent kidney stone growth. More clinical studies are needed to determine what the best dosage would be, potential side effects, and other factors.

When it comes to developing a drug that could treat existing kidney stones — or prevent them from forming in the first place — Rimer and his associates have come across some molecules that could potentially dissolve stones or that might inhibit nucleation, which is the very first step of a crystal forming.

For his work, Rimer was recently awarded The Welch Foundation’s Norman Hackerman Award in Chemical Research.

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