Health Watch -- Understanding Kidney Stones

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Why and how do kidney stones form, and what can be done to stop them? One group of doctors aims to find out.

Anyone who's ever had a kidney stone knows how painful they can be. Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas are working to make that pain a thing of the past. Their federally funded research is focused on understanding how and why kidney stones form. With this knowledge, they can develop better ways to prevent and treat kidney stones.

Researchers at UT Southwestern have been working on this problem for more than three decades, and already they've made a lot of advances. They've gained a great understanding of the metabolic processes involved in kidney stone formation, they've developed tests to determine a patient's risk for kidney stones and they've created the world's most prescribed medication to prevent kidney stones from recurring.

Now researchers are looking to broaden their understanding of kidney stones even further, by studying the genetics of kidney stone formation. They've found there is a gene that causes the intestines to absorb too much calcium, something that can lead to kidney stones. They're also studying several possible causes of the painful condition. They're investigating the possible links between insulin resistance and kidney stones. They're also looking into the increased risk of kidney stones for people who eat a high-protein diet and the role of estrogen in the way calcium is handled by the body.