Students Staff

03 February 2010

Paracetamol protects against kidney failure after muscle injury

Colchester Campus

The commonly-used painkiller Paracetamol can protect against kidney failure after severe muscle injury, according to research at the University.

One of the main causes of kidney failure affecting tens of thousands of people each year is a syndrome known as Rhabdomyolysis-Induced Renal Failure. Common causes of this condition include trauma or crushing injuries, drug abuse and intensive exercise.

Now, an international team of scientists, involving researchers at Essex, University College London and the USA, has discovered that Paracetamol reduces the damage caused to kidneys following severe muscle injury. The team at Essex is led by Professor Mike Wilson and Dr Brandon Reeder from the Department of Biological Sciences.

Explained Professor Wilson: ‘It is a very important advance in our research because it offers the possibility of a very effective, very simple, very cheap treatment which can be applied in developed and undeveloped countries.’

The team has previously shown that after severe muscle injury, proteins such as myoglobin escape into the bloodstream and are deposited in the kidneys, which generate free-radicals that can damage cells and induce renal failure. The researchers now report findings in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that Paracetamol can mitigate this damage both before and after injury.

Currently there are few treatments available for this condition beyond kidney dialysis and certainly none that specifically target the mechanism of damage.

Natural disasters like earthquakes, such as the recent one in Haiti, result in large numbers of people with kidney failure as a result of victims suffering crushing injuries. This link was behind the launch in the 1990s of the international Renal Disaster Relief Task Force, which was specifically set-up to treat disaster victims for kidney damage. It is hoped that Paracetamol may be a tremendously cost-effective way to improve patient outcomes following such disasters.

The study requires further clinical trials before being accepted as an effective clinical treatment, however, the doses used for this therapy are those currently known to be safe for human use.


Note to Editors:

For further details or to interview Professor Mike Wilson, please call the University Communications Team on 01206 872400 or e-mail

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