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PLoS One. 2014 Dec 22;9(12):e114686. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0114686. eCollection 2014.

Characterization of structure and function of ZS-9, a K+ selective ion trap.

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ZS Pharma Inc., Coppell, Texas, United States of America.
Xelay Acumen, Inc., Belmont, California, United States of America.


Hyperkalemia, a condition in which serum potassium ions (K+) exceed 5.0 mmol/L, is a common electrolyte disorder associated with substantial morbidity. Current methods of managing hyperkalemia, including organic polymer resins such as sodium polystyrene sulfonate (SPS), are poorly tolerated and/or not effective. Sodium zirconium cyclosilicate (ZS-9) is under clinical development as an orally administered, non-absorbed, novel, inorganic microporous zirconium silicate compound that selectively removes excess K+ in vivo. The development, structure and ion exchange properties of ZS-9 and its hypothesized mechanism of action are described. Based on calculation of the interatomic distances between the atoms forming the ZS-9 micropores, the size of the pore opening was determined to be ∼ 3 Å (∼ diameter of unhydrated K+). Unlike nonspecific organic polymer resins like SPS, the ZS-9 K+ exchange capacity (KEC) was unaffected by the presence of calcium (Ca2+) or magnesium ions (Mg2+) and showed>25-fold selectivity for K+ over either Ca2+ or Mg2+. Conversely, the selectivity of SPS for K+ was only 0.2-0.3 times its selectivity for Ca2+ or Mg2+in mixed ionic media. It is hypothesized that the high K+ specificity of ZS-9 is attributable to the chemical composition and diameter of the micropores, which possibly act in an analogous manner to the selectivity filter utilized by physiologic K+ channels. This hypothesized mechanism of action is supported by the multi-ion exchange studies. The effect of pH on the KEC of ZS-9 was tested in different media buffered to mimic different portions of the human gastrointestinal tract. Rapid K+ uptake was observed within 5 minutes - mainly in the simulated small intestinal and large intestinal fluids, an effect that was sustained for up to 1 hour. If approved, ZS-9 will represent a novel, first-in-class therapy for hyperkalemia with improved capacity, selectivity, and speed for entrapping K+ when compared to currently available options.

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