We have studied the kinetics of oxalate-induced turbidity in fresh human urine and artificial urine. Assays are performed in 96-well plates, which allows many oxalate concentrations to be studied, repeatedly, in a short time. The metastable limit is defined in terms of the lowest oxalate concentration that gives a rate of change of attenuance significantly greater than the control. Interpretation of rates above this limit is based on ln/ln plots of initial rates against added oxalate concentration. This approach has a good theoretical basis, is well supported by our results and gives a turbidity rate index that is related to the product of the growth rate constant and a factor relating to the number and characteristics of the heteronuclei responsible for initiation of crystallization. This interpretation is posited upon the assumptions that second-order crystallization kinetics occur in unseeded urine when supersaturation exceeds the metastable limit and that aggregation during the initial phase of crystallization does not significantly contribute to changes in turbidity. Metastable limits of urine from healthy volunteers corresponded to a calcium oxalate supersaturation ratio of approx. 10. The turbidity rate index was higher in human urine than in artificial urine. The metastable limit, based on either oxalate concentration or supersaturation, for induction of calcium oxalate crystallization in normal human urine is higher than is likely to be found in normal subjects in vivo. The shape of the relationship between the metastable limit (based on oxalate concentration) and calcium concentration emphasizes the benefit of achieving a low urine calcium concentration. Comparison of the turbidity rate indices for human and artificial urine suggests that the role of nucleation promoters is more dominant than that of growth inhibitors.

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