Study Shows Promise for Treating Kidney Disease in African Americans

March 1, 2024
Researchers targeted two common gene variants known to account for excess risk in African Americans

A study performed by Duke Health researchers could point the way forward regarding treatments for kidney failure in African Americans.

According to study lead author Opeyemi Olabisi, M.D., Ph.D., “for more than a decade, we have known that two APOL1 gene variants account for much of the excess risk of non-diabetic kidney failure in African Americans.” African Americans “develop end stage kidney disease at four times the rate of white Americans and represent more than 30% of people on dialysis.”

The two APOL1 gene variants are “known risk factors for kidney disease. These variants arose 5,000 years ago among people in West Africa to provide immunity against African sleeping sickness.” 13% of African Americans carry the two gene variants – G1 and G2 – and approximately 20% of those people will develop kidney disease in their lifetime. APOL1 is the “most common genetic driver of racial kidney health disparity in the U.S.”

Olabisi and colleagues found in the study that “the APOL G1 causes kidney disease by increasing the flow of sodium into and potassium out of a type of cell in the kidney called the podocyte, which forms a protective barrier in the kidney.” This increased flow triggers “a series of events that damages the kidney. The researchers were able to reduce that damage using an investigational molecule that blocks the function of the APOL1 protein.”

Duke Health’s website has the release.