Worldwide, more than one in ten adults are estimated to have chronic kidney disease (CKD). As CKD progresses, both the cost of treatment and associated risk of morbidity and mortality increase exponentially. As such, there is a great need for therapies that effectively slow CKD progression. Evidence from several small clinical trials indicates that alkali therapy may slow the rate of CKD progression. The biological mechanisms underlying this protective effect, however, remain unknown. In their recently published manuscript, Pastor Arroyo et al. (Clin Sci (Lond) (2022) 136(8): demonstrate that the alkali sodium bicarbonate protects against loss of renal function in a crystal nephropathy model in mice. Using unbiased approaches in both mice and human tissue, the authors go on to identify two novel mechanisms that may underly this protection. The first pathway is through promoting pathways of cell metabolism, which they speculate helps the remaining functional nephrons adapt to the greater metabolic needs required to maintain kidney filtration. The second pathway is by restoration of α-Klotho levels, which may limit the expression of adhesion molecules in the injured kidney. This, the authors speculate, may prevent inflammation from driving the functional decline of the kidney. Identifying these novel pathways represents an important step forward harnessing the potential benefits of alkali therapy in CKD.

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