Scientists have discovered 20 genes that could help explain the causes of kidney disease and ‘revolutionise’ treatments.
Chronic kidney disease affects about one in 10 adults and can require dialysis or even an organ transplant.
Experts said the Nature Genetics study was "a great breakthrough".
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a long-term condition in which the kidneys progressively lose their function.
People tend not to notice symptoms, which can include swollen ankles and hands or blood in the urine, until the condition is advanced.
It is linked to ageing – about one in five men and one in four women aged between 65 and 74 will have some degree of CKD.
The most common cause of CKD is damage caused by other long-term conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
It was known there was a genetic component to the disease, but not which genes were involved.
In this study, an international team of scientists, including researchers at the University of Edinburgh, looked at the genes of nearly 70,000 people across Europe.
They found 13 new genes that influence renal function and seven others that affect the production and secretion of creatinine – a chemical waste molecule that is generated from muscle metabolism and filtered through the kidneys.
(Source: University of Edinburgh: Nature Genetics: May 2010)