A pinboard by
Feby Savira

I'm a 1st Year PhD student investigating novel therapies for concurrent heart and kidney failure.


The quest of finding a cure for cardiorenal syndrome patients: why uremic toxins matter.

Cardio? Renal? Syndrome? - The heart and the kidneys work hand in hand to maintain our body's normal physiological function. Cardiorenal syndrome refers to the concurrent dysfunction of both the heart and the kidneys in diseased states. Patients with cardiorenal syndrome relentlessly face a high rate of mortality due to a lack of definitive and effective treatment despite the current existence of powerful pharmacological agents. This outlines the unmet need for a novel and an additional therapy to sufficiently treat such a complex condition.

Protein-bound uremic toxins: an overlooked culprit? - As kidney dysfunction reaches its end-stage, recent studies have identified the systemic accumulation of uremic toxins. One particular type of uremic toxin has the ability to bind to the ubiquitous albumin in our blood to form large protein complexes. These 'toxin-albumin' complexes cannot be cleared by the sick kidney and are too big to pass through the pores of a dialysis membrane, rendering dialysis useless. More importantly, experimental and clinical studies have shown that these protein-bound uremic toxins are critically involved in worsening the progression of heart and kidney failure, and yet at present, there is virtually no treatment that is effective enough to neutralize their harmful effects!

...and our 'solution'? - We first identify mechanisms involved in uremic toxin-mediated heart and kidney toxicity using cellular models. From these mechanistic studies in cells, we narrow down novel and efficacious therapeutic targets (see https://goo.gl/XwNmE3 for my recent publication on our latest intracellular target) that are potentially useful for further testing in animal models of cardiorenal syndrome (see https://goo.gl/b6VzUE for our laboratory's established cardiorenal syndrome pre-clinical model). We are hoping that by using a specific inhibitor to block some, if not all, of the pathological signaling initiated by these toxins, we can see an improvement in functional, structural and molecular changes in the heart and the kidneys to decelerate cardiorenal syndrome advancement and/or initiation.

The finish line? - Ultimately, we seek to shift the paradigm in cardiorenal syndrome therapy to improve the quality of life of these patients, by the means of finding new pharmacological agents that can potentially be used an adjunctive therapy along with the current standard therapy in the clinic.


Review on uremic toxins: classification, concentration, and interindividual variability.

Abstract: The choice of the correct concentration of potential uremic toxins for in vitro, ex vivo, and in vivo experiments remains a major area of concern; errors at this level might result in incorrect decisions regarding therpeutic correction of uremia and related clinical complications.An encyclopedic list of uremic retention solutes was composed, containing their mean normal concentration (CN), their highest mean/median uremic concentration (CU), their highest concentration ever reported in uremia (CMAX), and their molecular weight. A literature search of 857 publications on uremic toxicity resulted in the selection of data reported in 55 publications on 90 compounds, published between 1968 and 2002.For all compounds, CU and/or CMAX exceeded CN. Molecular weight was lower than 500 D for 68 compounds; of the remaining 22 middle molecules, 12 exceeded 12,000 D. CU ranged from 32.0 ng/L (methionine-enkephalin) up to 2.3 g/L (urea). CU in the ng/L range was found especially for the middle molecules (10/22; 45.5%), compared with 2/68 (2.9%) for a molecular weight <500 D (P < 0.002). Twenty-five solutes (27.8%) were protein bound. Most of them had a molecular weight <500 D except for leptin and retinol-binding protein. The ratio CU/CN, an index of the concentration range over which toxicity is exerted, exceeded 15 in the case of 20 compounds. The highest values were registered for several guanidines, protein-bound compounds, and middle molecules, to a large extent compounds with known toxicity. A ratio of CMAX/CU <4, pointing to a Gaussian distribution, was found for the majority of the compounds (74/90; 82%). For some compounds, however, this ratio largely exceeded 4 [e.g., for leptin (6.81) or indole-3-acetic acid (10.37)], pointing to other influencing factors than renal function, such as gender, genetic predisposition, proteolytic breakdown, posttranslation modification, general condition, or nutritional status.Concentrations of retention solutes in uremia vary over a broad range, from nanograms per liter to grams per liter. Low concentrations are found especially for the middle molecules. A substantial number of molecules are protein bound and/or middle molecules, and many of these exert toxicity and are characterized by a high range of toxic over normal concentration (CU/CN ratio). Hence, uremic retention is a complex problem that concerns many more solutes than the current markers of urea and creatinine alone. This list provides a basis for systematic analytic approaches to map the relative importance of the enlisted families of toxins.

Pub.: 05 Apr '03, Pinned: 04 Jan '18

Cardiorenal syndrome: the emerging role of protein-bound uremic toxins.

Abstract: Cardiorenal syndrome is a condition in which a complex interrelationship between cardiac dysfunction and renal dysfunction exists. Despite advances in treatment of both cardiovascular and kidney disease, cardiorenal syndrome remains a major global health problem. Characteristic of the pathophysiology of cardiorenal syndrome is bidirectional cross-talk; mediators/substances activated by the disease state of 1 organ can play a role in worsening dysfunction of the other by exerting their biologically harmful effects, leading to the progression of the syndrome. Accumulation of uremic toxins is a hallmark of renal excretory dysfunction. Removal of some toxins by conventional dialysis is particularly problematic because of their high protein binding. In this review, we demonstrate that protein-bound uremic toxins may play an important role in progression of cardiovascular disease in the setting of chronic kidney disease. The highly protein-bound uremic toxin indoxyl sulfate has emerged as a potent toxin adversely affecting both the kidney and heart. Direct cardiac effects of this toxin have been recently demonstrated both in vitro and in vivo. Specifically, potent fibrogenic and prohypertrophic effects, as well as oxidative stress-inducing effects, appear to play a central role in both renal and cardiac pathology. Many of these adverse effects can be suppressed by use of a gut adsorbent, AST-120. Potential mechanisms underlying indoxyl sulfate-induced cardiorenal fibrosis are discussed. Future research and clinical implications conclude this review.

Pub.: 10 Nov '12, Pinned: 25 Dec '17

Cardiorenal syndrome: acute kidney injury secondary to cardiovascular disease and role of protein-bound uraemic toxins.

Abstract: Cardiovascular disease (CVD) and kidney disease are closely interrelated. Disease of one organ can induce dysfunction of the other, ultimately leading to failure of both. Clinical awareness of synergistic adverse clinical outcomes in patients with coexisting CVD and kidney disease or 'cardiorenal syndrome (CRS)' has existed. Renal dysfunction, even mild, is a strong independent predictor for poor prognosis in CVD patients. Developing therapeutic interventions targeting acute kidney injury (AKI) has been limited due mainly to lack of effective tools to accurately detect AKI in a timely manner. Neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin and kidney injury molecule-1 have been recently demonstrated to be potential candidate biomarkers in patients undergoing cardiac surgery. However, further validation of AKI biomarkers is needed in other CVD settings, especially acute decompensated heart failure and acute myocardial infarction where AKI commonly occurs. The other concern with regard to understanding the pathogenesis of renal complications in CVD is that mechanistically oriented studies have been relatively rare. Pre-clininal studies have shown that activation of renal inflammation-fibrosis processes, probably triggered by haemodynamic derangement, underlies CVD-associated renal dysfunction. On the other hand, it is postulated that there still are missing links in the heart-kidney connection in CRS patients who have significant renal dysfunction. At present, non-dialysable protein-bound uraemic toxins (PBUTs) appear to be the main focus in this regard. Evidence of the causal role of PBUTs in CRS has been increasingly demonstrated, mainly focusing on indoxyl sulfate (IS) and p-cresyl sulfate (pCS). Both IS and pCS are derived from colonic microbiotic metabolism of dietary amino acids, and hence the colon has become a target of treatment in addition to efforts to improve dialysis techniques for better removal of PBUTs. Novel therapy targeting the site of toxin production has led to new prospects in early intervention for predialysis patients with chronic kidney disease.

Pub.: 08 Jun '14, Pinned: 04 Jan '18

Albumin is the main plasma binding protein for indoxyl sulfate and p-cresyl sulfate.

Abstract: Indoxyl sulfate and p-cresyl sulfate are two uremic retention solutes implicated in the uremic syndrome. Removal during dialysis is limited, mainly due to protein binding. Binding characteristics to healthy albumin have recently been characterized. Whether uremia alters the binding characteristics of albumin is currently unknown. Moreover, protein binding values previously determined with ultrafiltration are in sharp contrast to recently reported values based on microcalorimetry. In the present study, indoxyl sulfate and p-cresyl sulfate binding were therefore quantified using both equilibrium dialysis and ultrafiltration. Deming regression demonstrated good agreement between equilibrium dialysis and ultrafiltration. Free serum concentrations of indoxyl sulfate (+26.6%) and p-cresyl sulfate (+19.7%) were slightly higher at body temperature compared with at room temperature. To investigate binding kinetics, the plasma of healthy individuals or hemodialysis patients was titrated with albumin solutions. Theoretical models of protein binding were fitted to observed titration curves. Binding coefficients of both toxins were highest in purified albumin, and were reduced from healthy to uremic plasma. In conclusion, the ultrafiltration-HPLC technique reliably measures free serum concentrations of indoxyl sulfate and p-cresyl sulfate. Albumin is the main binding protein, both in health and in advanced stages of chronic kidney disease. Modeling suggests that albumin contains two binding sites for both toxins, a single high affinity binding site and a second low affinity binding site. The high affinity binding site accounts for at least 90% of overall binding. Competition for this binding site could be used to augment free solute concentrations during dialysis, thus improving epuration.

Pub.: 10 Jan '13, Pinned: 25 Dec '17

Does indoxyl sulfate, a uraemic toxin, have direct effects on cardiac fibroblasts and myocytes?

Abstract: Indoxyl sulfate (IS) is a uraemic toxin found at high concentration in patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) co-morbid with chronic heart failure (CHF). The aim of this study was to determine direct effects of IS on cardiac cells as well as the pro-inflammatory effect of IS.Indoxyl sulfate significantly increased neonatal rat cardiac fibroblast collagen synthesis (by 145.7% vs. control, P < 0.05) and myocyte hypertrophy (by 134.5% vs. control, P < 0.001) as determined by (3)H-proline or (3)H-leucine incorporation, respectively. Indoxyl sulfate stimulated tumour necrosis factor-alpha, interleukin-6 (IL-6), and IL-1beta mRNA expression in THP-1 cells as quantified by RT-PCR. Both p38 (RWJ-67657) and MEK1/2 (U0126) inhibitors suppressed all these effects by IS. Furthermore, western blot analysis showed that IS activated mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) (p38, p42/44) and nuclear factor-kappa B (NFkappaB) pathways. 3-(4,5-Dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide assay showed that IS exerted its effects without affecting cell viability.This study has, for the first time, demonstrated that IS has pro-fibrotic, pro-hypertrophic, and pro-inflammatory effects, indicating that IS might play an important role in adverse cardiac remodelling mediated via activation of the p38 MAPK, p42/44 MAPK, and NFkappaB pathways. Targeting reduction of IS and/or the pathways it activates may represent a novel therapeutic approach to the management of CHF with concomitant CKD.

Pub.: 06 Jan '10, Pinned: 25 Dec '17

Subtotal nephrectomy accelerates pathological cardiac remodeling post-myocardial infarction: implications for cardiorenal syndrome.

Abstract: To further understand the pathophysiology of concomitant cardiac and renal dysfunction, we investigated molecular, structural and functional changes in heart and kidney that occur when a kidney insult (5/6 nephrectomy-STNx) follows myocardial infarction (MI).Male Sprague Dawley rats (n=43) were randomized into four groups: Sham-operated MI+Sham-operated STNx (Sham+Sham), MI+Sham-operated STNx (MI+Sham), Sham-operated MI+STNx (Sham+STNx) and MI+STNx. MI/Sham surgery was followed by STNx/Sham surgery 4 weeks later. Cardiac and renal function was assessed prior to STNx/Sham surgery and again 10 weeks later. Hemodynamic parameters were measured prior to sacrifice.Compared to the MI+Sham group, STNx further accelerated the reduction in left ventricular (LV) ejection fraction by 21% (p<0.01), and increased tau logistic by 38% (p<0.01) in MI+STNx animals. Heart weight/body weight (BW) and lung weight/BW ratios were 39% (p<0.001) and 16% (p<0.01) greater in MI+STNx compared to MI+Sham animals. Similarly, myocyte cross-sectional area (p<0.001), cardiac interstitial fibrosis (p<0.01) and collagen I (p<0.01) were increased in the LV non-infarct zone of the myocardium in the MI+STNx group. These changes were associated with significant increases in atrial natriuretic peptide (p<0.001), transforming growth factor β1 (p<0.05) and collagen I (p<0.05) gene expression in MI+STNx animals. In comparison with the Sham+STNx group, renal tubulointerstitial fibrosis was increased by 64% in MI+STNx animals (p<0.001), with no further deterioration in renal function.STNx accelerated cardiac changes post-MI whilst MI accelerated STNx-induced renal fibrosis, supporting bidirectional interactions in cardiorenal syndrome (CRS). This animal model may be of use in assessing the impact of therapies to treat CRS.

Pub.: 26 Jan '13, Pinned: 25 Dec '17

Apoptosis signal-regulating kinase 1 inhibition attenuates cardiac hypertrophy and cardiorenal fibrosis induced by uremic toxins: Implications for cardiorenal syndrome.

Abstract: Intracellular accumulation of protein-bound uremic toxins in the setting of cardiorenal syndrome leads to adverse effects on cardiorenal cellular functions, where cardiac hypertrophy and cardiorenal fibrosis are the hallmarks. In this study, we sought to determine if Apoptosis Signal-Regulated Kinase 1 (ASK1), an upstream regulator of cellular stress response, mediates cardiac hypertrophy and cardiorenal fibrosis induced by indoxyl sulfate (IS) and p-cresol sulfate (PCS) in vitro, and whether ASK1 inhibition is beneficial to ameliorate these cellular effects. PCS augmented cardiac myocyte hypertrophy and fibroblast collagen synthesis (as determined by 3H-leucine and 3H-proline incorporation, respectively), similar to our previous finding with IS. IS and PCS also increased collagen synthesis of proximal tubular cells and renal mesangial cells. Pro-hypertrophic (α-skeletal muscle actin and β-MHC) and pro-fibrotic genes (TGF-β1 and ctgf) were induced by both IS and PCS. Western blot analyses revealed the activation of ASK1 and downstream mitogen activated protein kinases (MAPKs) (p38MAPK and ERK1/2) as well as nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB) by IS and PCS. ASK1, OAT1/3, ERK1/2 and p38MAPK inhibitors suppressed all these effects. In summary, IS and PCS exhibit pro-hypertrophic and pro-fibrotic properties, at least in part, via the activation of ASK1 and its downstream pathways. ASK1 inhibitor is an effective therapeutic agent to alleviate protein-bound uremic toxin-induced cardiac hypertrophy and cardiorenal fibrosis in vitro, and may be translated further for cardiorenal syndrome therapy.

Pub.: 07 Nov '17, Pinned: 25 Dec '17