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article imageComputer kidney provides safer tests for new medications

By Tim Sandle     Mar 12, 2019 in Science
Waterloo - New research, from Canada, based on a computational model of the human kidney has been designed to permit the safe testing of medicines. The aim is to help fast-track the development of novel drug products.
The model comes from the University of Waterloo and it explores how new drugs, designed to target the kidney, might work, avoiding too many expensive early-stage clinical trials to be run. The types of medications that can be tested using the model include those for diabetes medication. Such modelling will provide an insight for medical researchers as to whether a drug is likely to succeed or fail.
The model was designed using big data analytics, drawing on medical information pertaining to anatomic and hemodynamic data from the human kidney. These data points were then cross-linked with data that had been collected from animal models, and adjusted these so that the model was running in a way that was consistent with human physiology.
The model will also enable biologists to learn more about the workings of the human kidney, including how it regulates the body's salt, potassium, acid content. Such insights will be useful when considering kidney disease and will allow treatments to be modelled, avoiding the need to use invasive procedures on a patient. Early tests on the model show that it will be useful for examining the causes of kidney failure.
The kidney is a complex organ. As well as its function of waste removal from the body, the kidney is also responsible for the critical regulation of the body’s salt, potassium, acid content, and blood pressure
The use of computer models also avoids the use of animals in experimentation. Most animal models use rodent kidneys.
Commenting on the model, lead researcher Dr. Anita Layton states: “While the computational model is not an actual person, it is very inexpensive to run, and presents less of a risk to patients.”
She adds that: “Certain drugs are developed to target the kidney while others have unintended effects on the kidney and computer modelling allows us to make long-term projections of potential impacts, which could increase patient safety."
The research has been published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology. The research paper is titled “A Computational Model of Epithelial Solute and Water Transport along a Human Nephron.”
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