Regression of vascular calcification in chronic kidney disease – feasible or fantasy? A review of the clinical evidence



Dr David Goldsmith, Guy's Hospital, King's Health Partners, London SE1 9RT, UK.

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The complex relationships between cardiovascular, renal, and bone disease are increasingly recognized but not yet clearly understood. Vascular calcification (VC) represents a common end point between these interlinked systems. It is highly prevalent in chronic kidney disease (CKD) and may be responsible for some of the excess cardiovascular events seen in this condition. There is much interest in developing therapeutic agents to stop its development or reverse its progression. Traditionally considered to be due to abnormalities in calcium and phosphate metabolism alone, VC is now known to be the product of active, dynamic processes within the vessel wall. Primary prevention of VC is possible through successful prevention or reversal of progressive renal dysfunction, hypertension and hyperlipidaemia, but is challenging given the increasing global prevalence of these risk factors. Secondary prevention of VC through tight control of calcium and phosphate, can be achieved by dietary or pharmacological means. Both the modification of haemodialysis duration or methods and the use of renal transplantation have an effect. Novel drugs such as cinacalcet were hoped to halt calcification but results have been mixed, and no intervention has yet been shown to reverse calcification reliably. A new range of experimental targets involved in the putative mediatory pathways between bone and vascular disease has emerged. Aiming to manipulate the active mechanisms involved in calcium deposition, these hold hope for reversal of calcification, but are still theoretical or in early animal or human experimentation.