Visit Website | Image credit: M. Lewis, International Cystinuria Foundation
A new method that stops the growth of crystals that form cystine kidney stones suggests a pathway to prevention. The formation of L-cystine stones is a consequence of excessive levels of L-cystine in the urine. L-cystine forms into crystals, which aggregate into stones, reaching up to a centimeter in diameter. Using atomic force microscopy—which allows for the observation of objects as small as a nanometer—researchers found that L-cystine crystals grow through the continual attachment of L-cystine molecules to the edges of hexagon-shaped hillocks on the crystal surface. This process results in spiral growth patterns.