Rolling the Stone Away

As regular readers of this space know, there aren't many things better about being a mouse than being a human. But here's one:

Mice, unlike men, do not spontaneously develop kidney stones, which has thus far prevented scientists from establishing an animal model to investigate the painful disease. However, a new study by Jeffrey S. Clark in the Journal of Physiology has pinpointed some of the differences between mice and men, and could lead the way to the development of a mouse model to aid in kidney stone research.

About three in 20 men (and one in 20 women) in developed countries get kidney stones at some point in their life. Kidney stones are solid deposits of various minerals, particularly oxalate, that should be excreted through urine; however, in some diets, particularly low-salt diets, the oxalate is retained in the intestine, where the stones form.

Mice, Clark and his colleagues found, are simply far more efficient at disposing oxalate than humans are - especially because some people have a peculiar protein that reduces their ability to export the mineral. The study authors are hopeful their discovery will pave the way for improved treatments and a better understanding of oxalate removal.

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