Purpose of review: In addition to traditional risk factors such as low urine volume or hypercalciuria, emerging data suggest that calcium oxalate (CaOx), one of the most common mineral complexes in the urine, elicits a strong immunologic response. This review highlights those studies and projects how future therapies may be directed for kidney stone prevention.
Recent findings: Over the last 2 years, several groups have studied the response of the immune system to CaOx crystals using cell culture and animal models. Dominguez et al. found that CaOx crystals were recognized by monocytes through an lipopolysaccharide-mediated mechanism, leading to M1 'inflammatory' macrophage phenotype. Patel et al. proposed excessive oxalate-mediated reactive oxygen species within macrophage mitochondria may impair their ability to properly clear stones. Two other groups developed mouse models (an androgen receptor knock-out and an overexpression of Sirtuin 3 protein) and demonstrated increased renal anti-inflammatory macrophage differentiation and decreased CaOx deposition in experimental compared with controls. Anders et al. fed hyperoxaluric mice 1,3-butanediol, which blocks an inflammatory form of cell death called NLRP3 inflammasome and found less intrarenal oxidative damage and higher anti-inflammatory renal infiltrates in experimentals. Finally, monocytes exposed to CaOx crystals followed by hydroxyapatite had reduced inflammatory cytokine and chemokine production compared with those without hydroxyapatite, suggesting that Randall's plaque may play a role in dampening M1-mediatiated CaOx inflammation.
Summary: By modulating the immune response, immunotherapy could provide the means to prevent stone recurrences in certain individuals. The promotion of M2 over M1 macrophages and inhibition of inflammation could prevent the cascade that leads to CaOx nucleation. Future therapies may target the ability of macrophages to degrade CaOx crystals to prevent stones.