Concordia researchers find melatonin is effective against polycystic kidney disease

January 26, 2021

A hormone commonly associated with sleep-wake regulation has been found to reduce cysts in fruit flies, according to Concordia researchers. It's a finding that may affect the way we treat some kidney diseases and reduce the need for kidney transplants.

In a new paper published in the journal , alum
The researchers hope that their findings can be applied to treating people suffering from autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease. ADPKD is a genetic chronic and progressive disease characterized by the growth of dozens of cysts in the nephrons. It is incurable and affects approximately 12.5 million worldwide.

Similarities big and small

Because nephrons in vertebrates are embedded in other tissue, the researchers experimented on Drosophila -- the common fruit fly.

"Drosophila conserves many of the renal pathway components found in vertebrates and have anatomically isolated renal tubes," Gamberi explains. "With microdissection, we can isolate the tubules and conduct biochemical and molecular analysis."

The researchers bred fruit flies bearing the Bicaudal C gene mutation. It is known to cause kidney cysts in all manner of living beings, from flies to frogs to mice to humans.

Over 18 days, Millet-Boureima administered melatonin to 50 Drosophila and ethanol to a control group. She then dissected the flies and scored their cysts, a process yielding a cystic index. She found that the melatonin-treated flies had much fewer and smaller cysts than the control. Because Millet-Boureima was skilled at dissecting the insects and evaluating the recovered renal tubules, she was able to avoid bias in the count.

She was also able to distinguish three separate sections of the Drosophila tubule, each with its own unique function, and assign the cysts to a particular section. After testing several compounds on the same family of cells, she observed different activities along the length of the tubule. The researchers realized that they could potentially develop targeted treatment depending on the location of the cysts in a patient's nephrons.

"Biologically speaking, this has a lot of potential that we will obviously develop," Gamberi says.

Helping without harming

Though Gamberi says melatonin has not been previously used to treat PKD, she does think it holds some promise. PKD is a chronic disease, so treatment cannot include any toxic components. This rules out chemotherapy and tumour-killing antineoplastics used in oncology, for instance. However, melatonin is entirely non-toxic and shares certain properties with antineoplastics and anti-inflammatory agents.

"We know from oncology that melatonin has two effects when it is administered with chemotherapy," Gamberi explains. "First, it acts as a drug adjuvant to the chemotherapy, making it work more effectively against cancer cells. Second, it appears to protect healthy cells from the toxicity of the chemotherapy. Basically, melatonin increases the specificity of the chemotherapy. We hope that it can have a similar positive effect when used with an anti-ADPKD drug like tolvaptan, which can damage the liver."

The researchers are keen to share their findings as quickly as possible.

"I hope there will be more research on the drugs we tested and that we get more results that will help the PKD community," Millet-Boureima says.
-end-
Read the cited paper: "Cyst Reduction by Melatonin in a Novel Drosophila Model of Polycystic Kidney Disease."

Concordia University

Related Fruit Flies Articles from Brightsurf:

Sestrin makes fruit flies live longer
Researchers identify positive effector behind reduced food intake.

Circular RNA makes fruit flies live longer
The molecule influences the insulin signalling pathway and thus prolongs life

Fruit flies respond to rapid changes in the visual environment
Researchers have discovered a mechanism employed by the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster that broadens our understanding of visual perception.

How fruit flies flock together in orderly clusters
Opposing desires to congregate and maintain some personal space drive fruit flies to form orderly clusters, according to a study published today in eLife.

Fruit flies help in the development of personalized medicine
It is common knowledge that there is a connection between our genes and the risk of developing certain diseases.

Fruit flies' microbiomes shape their evolution
In just five generations, an altered microbiome can lead to genome-wide evolution in fruit flies, according to new research led researchers at the University of Pennsylvania.

Why fruit flies eat practically anything
Kyoto University researchers uncover why some organisms can eat anything -- 'generalists -- and others have strict diets -- 'specialists'.

Why so fly: MU scientists discover some fruit flies learn better than others
Fruit flies could one day provide new avenues to discover additional genes that contribute to a person's ability to learn and remember.

Fruit flies find their way by setting navigational goals
Navigating fruit flies do not have the luxury of GPS, but they do have a kind of neural compass.

Tolerance to stress is a 'trade-off' as fruit flies age
With the help of the common fruit fly (D. melanogaster), which ages quickly because it only lives about 60 days, FAU neuroscientists provide insights into healthy aging by investigating the effects of a foraging gene on age and stress tolerance.

Read More: Fruit Flies News and Fruit Flies Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.