Cystinuria, a genetic disease that causes the formation of cystine kidney stones, has a number of treatment options, but selecting the right one is a bit of a hit-or-miss proposition. The various drugs that are prescribed have different effects on the stones themselves, so a team of French researchers wanted to see what exactly happens to cystine stones. They used scanning electron microscopy and powder neutron diffraction analysis to measure the size and visualize the texture of the tiny stones.
Their findings may already help physicians prescribe the correct meds, but they note that following the drug regimen is particularly important for patients to achieve optimal outcomes.
From the study abstract in Journal of Applied Crystallography:
Powder neutron diffraction analysis and/or scanning electron microscopy examination of cystine stones provide evidence that usual alkalinization by sodium bicarbonate associated with high diuresis significantly reduces the size of both nanocrystals and crystallites, while for other treatments, including alkalinizing drugs and thiol derivatives, the data suggest mainly changes in the topology of crystallites. Alkalinization with sodium bicarbonate affects cystine kidney stones at the mesoscopic and nanoscopic scales, while other medical treatments only alter their surface.
Study in Journal of Applied Crystallography: Therapy modifies cystine kidney stones at the macroscopic scale. Do such alterations exist at the mesoscopic and nanometre scale?