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Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol. 2017 Feb;44(2):162-171. doi: 10.1111/1440-1681.12694.

Autonomic nervous system in acute kidney injury.

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Dobney Hypertension Centre, School of Medicine and Pharmacology, Royal Perth Hospital Unit, The University of Western Australia, Perth, WA, Australia.
Institute of Human Physiology, Medical University of Gdansk, Gdansk, Poland.
Department of Clinical Sciences, Institute of Health Sciences, Pomeranian University of Slupsk, Slupsk, Poland.

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Acute kidney injury (AKI) is a rapid loss of kidney function resulting in accumulation of end metabolic products and associated abnormalities in fluid, electrolyte and acid-base homeostasis. The pathophysiology of AKI is complex and multifactorial involving numerous vascular, tubular and inflammatory pathways. Neurohumoral activation with heightened activity of the sympathetic nervous system and renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system play a critical role in this scenario. Inflammation and/or local renal ischaemia are underlying mechanisms triggering renal tissue hypoxia and resultant renal microcirculation dysfunction; a common feature of AKI occurring in numerous clinical conditions leading to a high morbidity and mortality rate. The contribution of renal nerves to the pathogenesis of AKI has been extensively demonstrated in a series of experimental models over the past decades. While this has led to better knowledge of the pathogenesis of human AKI, therapeutic approaches to improve patient outcomes are scarce. Restoration of autonomic regulatory function with vagal nerve stimulation resulting in anti-inflammatory effects and modulation of centrally-mediated mechanisms could be of clinical relevance. Evidence from experimental studies suggests that a therapeutic splenic ultrasound approach may prevent AKI via activation of the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway. This review briefly summarizes renal nerve anatomy, basic insights into neural control of renal function in the physiological state and the involvement of the autonomic nervous system in the pathophysiology of AKI chiefly due to sepsis, cardiopulmonary bypass and ischaemia/reperfusion experimental model. Finally, potentially preventive experimental pre-clinical approaches for the treatment of AKI aimed at sympathetic inhibition and/or parasympathetic stimulation are presented.


acute kidney injury; autonomic nervous system; renal nerves; therapeutic interventions

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