Geology and microbiology Professor Bruce Fouke from the University of Illinois conducted a study on the composition of kidney stones that might now rewrite centuries of medical research. According to the new research, published in the Scientific Reports journal, kidney stones are developing in calcium-rich layers like every other mineralization in nature, such as corals reefs, so they possess different geological histories.
Also of great significance to human health, the new study revealed that kidney stones dissolve and rebuild over and over again. That, however, contradicts the commonly-accepted theory that kidney stones are homogenous rocks which never dissolve and are entirely distinct from the other rocks found in nature.
“Contrary to what doctors learn in their medical training, we found that kidney stones undergo a dynamic process of growing and dissolving, growing and dissolving. This means that one day we may be able to intervene to dissolve the stones right in the patient’s kidney entirely, something most doctors today would say is impossible,” said Bruce Fouke.
Kidney stones possess different geological histories
Crystals of a hydrated form of calcium oxalate that bind one to the other were observed in the early phase of kidney stone buildup. Organic matter strata develop on top of the core of the kidney stones forming a sort of an outer layer resembling a shell. Then, the stones keep on dissolving and developing, over and over again.
As the researchers were able to observe the layers that form the kidney stones, it was possible to recreate their geological history, according to Fouke.
“In geology, when you see layers, that means that something older is underneath something younger. One layer may be deposited over the course of very short to very long periods of time,” Fouke said. However, the majority of the strata appeared as disrupted showing that part of the stones dissolved. “Therefore, just one rock represents a whole series of events over time that is critical to deciphering the history of kidney stone disease,” Fouke said.
“Before this study, it was thought that a kidney stone is just a simple crystal that gets bigger over time. What we see here is that it’s dynamic. The stone is growing and dissolving, growing and dissolving. It’s very rich with many components. It’s very much alive,” concluded Jessica Saw from the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine, and the co-author of this study.