Researchers have found a better way to predict the risk of kidney disease in African Americans, who are more likely to develop kidney failure than European Americans.

In a group of studies published in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Society Nephrology, researchers have investigated and identified the underlying risks for developing kidney diseases in blacks.

Blacks are four to five times more likely to develop kidney failure than white Americans. Those with family members with kidney failure also have an increased risk of developing kidney failure.

Because of those indicators, researchers have found that genetics could play a role in risk between races. Researchers at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons found variations in the gene, APOL1, which creates a protein that is a component of HDL is a major risk factor for two forms of kidney disease.

Another study in the journal from Case Western Reserve University found that the protein created by the APOL1 gene is in a different region of the kidney in patients with scarred kidneys and patients with scarred kidney tissue due to HIV infection, than those without kidney disease. The gene variant was most common among those of African descent.

"The five articles published in this issue launch a new era in investigating the underlying risks for developing two very common and complex kidney diseases in African Americans," said Eric G. Neilson M. D., editor-in-chief of JASN. "Susceptibility variants such as those in the APOL1 gene give scientists new tools for diagnosing and understanding certain diseases, and they could eventually provide new targets for drug therapy."