Unacylated ghrelin and obestatin: promising biomarkers of protein energy wasting in children with chronic kidney disease

Alice Monzani, Michela Perrone, Flavia Prodam, Stefania Moia, Giulia Genoni, Sara Testa, Fabio Paglialonga, Anna Rapa, Gianni Bona, Giovanni Montini, Alberto Edefonti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Impairment in orexigenic/anorexigenic hormone balance may be key in the pathogenesis of protein energy wasting in children with chronic kidney disease (CKD). Measurement of ghrelin and obestatin concentrations in children with CKD would help assess the potential contribution of these hormones to uremic protein energy wasting. Methods: This was a cross-sectional case–control study. Acylated and unacylated ghrelin and obestatin were measured in 42 children on conservative treatment (CT), 20 children on hemodialysis, 48 pediatric renal transplant (RTx) recipients and 43 controls (CTR) (mean age 11.9, range 5–20 years). Weight, height and bicipital, tricipital, subscapular and suprailiac folds were measured, and the body mass index-standard deviation score (BMI-SDS), percentage of fat mass and fat-free mass were calculated. Urea and creatinine were measured and the glomerular filtration rate (GFR) calculated. Results: Unacylated ghrelin level was higher in patients than controls (p = 0.0001), with the highest levels found in hemodialysis patients (p = 0.001 vs. CKD-CT, p = 0.0001 vs. RTx, p < 0.0001 vs. CTR). Obestatin level was significantly higher in patients on hemodialysis than those on conservative treatment, RTx recipients and controls (p < 0.0001 in each case). Unacylated ghrelin negatively correlated with weight-SDS (p < 0.0001), BMI-SDS (p = 0.0005) and percentage fat mass (p = 0.004) and positively correlated with percentage fat-free mass (p = 0.004). Obestatin concentration negatively correlated with weight-SDS (p = 0.007). Unacylated ghrelin and obestatin concentrations positively correlated with creatinine and urea and inversely with eGFR, even after adjustments for gender, age, puberty and BMI-SDS (p < 0.0001 for each model). Conclusions: Unacylated ghrelin and obestatin, negatively related to renal function, seem to be promising inverse indicators of nutritional status in children with CKD. Potential therapeutic implications in terms of optimization of their removal in patients on hemodialysis could be hypothesized.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)661-672
Number of pages12
JournalPediatric Nephrology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Cachexia
  • Children
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Ghrelin
  • Obestatin
  • Protein energy wasting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Nephrology


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