Scientists from the University of Missouri have identified a cellular signal that makes aging kidneys vulnerable to injury. They found that low levels of a protein called alpha (E) catenin can occur with age, triggering first an increase in kidney cells, then the mass death of healthy cells in a process called apoptosis. Through apoptosis, or programmed cell death, cell numbers are carefully regulated, but in this case, apoptosis goes unchecked and too many cells die, leaving kidneys at risk. The researchers believe they may be able to protect kidneys by stopping the loss of alpha (E) catenin or interrupting the signaling that leads to cell death.
Age-Related Self-Destruction of Cells Makes Kidney Prone to Injury, University of Missouri Health System, School of Medicine, July 7, 2015