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African Americans are at greater risk of kidney disease

Category: Kidney Diseases

African American individuals who have a history of nephropathy in their family may want to consider seeking a kidney test to determine their risk factor for the disease. A new study has found that a gene found in many African Americans is a leading cause of the disease.

Researchers from Wake Forest University found that the APOL1 gene is found in 30 percent of all African Americans. This gene is an abnormal variant, which researchers say increases an individual's risk for developing kidney disease 10-fold.

"It has long been thought that high blood pressure is a common cause of end stage kidney disease in African-Americans," said study co-researcher Barry Freedman.

"However, the strong association between variants in the APOL1 gene and hypertension-attributed kidney disease suggested that this kidney disease is not due to hypertension as was initially believed."

African Americans have a significantly higher rate of kidney disease. Researchers speculated that the genetic variant may have been developed as protection from a parasite known to cause African sleeping sickness. The disease causes complications in the nervous system that eventually can lead to death.
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