November 1997

Media Contacts: Holly Korschun, 404/727-3990 -- hkorsch@emory.edu

The American Society for Clinical Nutrition recently presented its Robert H. Herman Memorial Award to William E. Mitch, M.D., Garland Herndon Professor of Medicine and director of the Division of Renal Diseases in the Emory University School of Medicine. The award was given "in recognition of Dr. Mitchs fundamental contributions to our understanding of chronic renal failure."

Dr. Mitch's research "bridges the basic and applied sciences and has enabled the use of dietary therapy in patients with advanced kidney failure, established a dietary regimen that slows the rate of progression of renal failure, and contributed to our understanding of the metabolic derangements in renal disease and identified a treatable cause of muscle wasting in kidney failure," the award stated.

Dr. Mitch is director of Emory's George M. O'Brien Kidney Research Center, one of only five such kidney disease centers established by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). As an internationally known authority on nutritional aspects of kidney disease, his career has been devoted to finding solutions to problems causing protein catabolism and muscle wasting.

Although protein is a necessary component of the diet, foods containing protein and phosphorous are the source of acid and other wastes the kidney must eliminate. In patients with chronic renal failure, too much protein in the diet causes toxic buildup, gradually destroying the kidney's blood filtering system and leading rapidly to end-stage disease. Dr. Mitch's research has focused on the connection between high acid levels, uremia and body protein stores on kidney failure.

Dr. Mitch led Emory's participation in the largest national study of dietary protein and chronic kidney disease, the Modification of Diet in Renal Disease Trial. This trial evaluated low-protein diets as a means of slowing the progression to end-stage renal disease. The study showed that a protein-restricted diet can ameliorate many symptoms of uremia and prevent some complications of chronic renal failure, including osteodystrophy (defective bone formation), hypertension and acidosis and in some patients can slow the progression to end-stage renal disease.

Dr. Mitch has continued to conduct clinical trials in patients with chronic renal failure using different types of low-protein diets to provide just enough protein to prevent muscle loss but not enough to cause a buildup of toxins in the bloodstream. Although he first focuses on blood pressure control in patients with progressive renal failure and on intensive insulin therapy in diabetic patients, when patients do not respond to these first-line therapies he recommends low-protein diets to limit uremic symptoms and delay the time until dialysis must be used.


For more general information on The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center, call Health Sciences Communication's Office at 404-727-5686, or send e-mail to hsnews@emory.edu.

Copyright ©Emory University, 1997. All Rights Reserved.
Send comments to hsnews@emory.edu