Mayo Clinic researchers are turning to Yellowstone National Park to unlock the secrets of kidney stones. Medical science long has been mystified by a cause and cure for this painful condition that affects more than 1 in 10 Americans.
Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine and NASA Astrobiology Institute research finds kidney stones grow in dynamic ways that are similar to those observed in Mammoth Hot Springs rock formations at Yellowstone.
“For decades, we thought that kidney stones formed in a slow, steady, layer-by-layer process like dust settling in your house. However, new high-resolution cross sections of these stones indicate they repeatedly grow and dissolve on their way to becoming a fully formed stone. There are periods of rapid growth, large missing gaps and dissolution — it’s a back-and-forth process. This suggests that stones grow over time in a more complicated way than we previously knew, and that there may be new ways to prevent them,” says Nicholas Chia, Ph.D., co-director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine Microbiome program. “We are very excited because we see the same types of patterns in kidney stones, Yellowstone rocks and many other environments on Earth."
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