Newswise — Bethesda, Md. (September 5, 2017)—Young females may have the greatest level of protection against acute kidney injury (AKI) caused by the chemotherapy drug Cisplatin, commonly used to treat lung, ovarian, bladder and stomach cancer. Nearly a third of all people who are treated with Cisplatin develop AKI. The study—the first to investigate  combined sex and age differences in the response to kidney injury—is published ahead of print in the American Journal of Physiology—Renal Physiology  and was chosen as an APSselect article for September.

Previous research has found that higher expression of an enzyme that breaks down iron in the blood protects both sexes from kidney injury by aiding a function called autophagy. Autophagy is a self-digestion process that removes damaged cells and promotes the creation of new cells that help repair the kidneys’ duct system. However, autophagic activity naturally slows during the aging process, which may prevent the kidneys from repairing themselves effectively.

Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center studied four groups of Cisplatin-exposed mice: Young females, old females, young males and old males.  The young male and young female groups both had high amounts of a protein that acts as a marker for autophagy when compared with the old groups. The young males measured somewhat higher protein levels than the young females. Overall, however, the young female group had less kidney damage and inflammation than the old female group and both male groups. This finding suggests that “young females may utilize autophagy more efficiently than other sex/age groups to repair the tubular damage leading to a more robust response to AKI and preservation of renal function,” the research team wrote.

The article, “Unique sex- and age-dependent effects in protective pathways in acute kidney injury,” is published ahead of print in the American Journal of Physiology—Renal Physiology. It is highlighted as one of this month’s “best of the best” as part of the American Physiological Society’s APSselect program. Read all of this month’s selected research articles.

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Physiology is the study of how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function in health and disease. Established in 1887, the American Physiological Society (APS) was the first U.S. society in the biomedical sciences field. The Society represents more than 10,500 members and publishes 15 peer-reviewed journals with a worldwide readership.