Health Computer modelling predicts kidney stones

Computer modelling predicts kidney stones

New computer modelling developed by a team at Murdoch University could help prevent kidney stones, a significant and painful human health problem.

Developed by Dr Michael Hill, Dr Erich Königsberger and Emeritus Professor Peter May from the Murdoch School of Engineering and Information Technology, the new modelling predicts the biochemical conditions in the body that lead to the formation of kidney stones.

Kidney stones are mostly small, hard deposits of calcium oxalate or phosphate which form in the kidneys and can be agonising when passed through the urinary system.

Between four and eight per cent of Australians experience kidney stones at some point in their lives.

Despite much research, the processes involved in the development of kidney stones remain poorly understood and reliable procedures for preventing their formation have yet to be found.

Dr Hill said a delicate biological balance was required in the human body to prevent the formation of solid structures such as unwanted, harmful kidney stones while in other places producing solid tissue required for healthy bones and teeth.

“Understanding kidney stone formation involves the investigation of mineral formation in a complex environment, where the changes that are taking place are often very difficult to observe directly,” said Dr Hill.

“We looked at recent research advances, which indicated some key steps in kidney stone formation. We then developed modelling capabilities to help us calculate mineral solubilities and provide insight into the processes involved.

Dr Hill said that adjusting urine pH and diluting urine by increasing fluid intake were the two measures currently taken to prevent or treat kidney stones.

“The new model could eventually lead to improved treatment by predicting specific chemical factors that are likely to influence stone formation,” he said.

“This would then require the expected effects to be confirmed outside of the human body in laboratory tests.

Dr Hill said that much more research was required before developing a treatment that would make a difference inside the kidney – a very complex and difficult to reach environment.

Read more about the team’s research here. Story credit: Murdoch University newsroom.

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