Carnitine is a small water-soluble molecule that is present in almost all animal species. It plays an indispensable role in fatty acid metabolism, where it is involved in the transport of activated fatty acids between different cellular compartments. Uremic patients, as well as patients with chronic renal failure, appear to have abnormal renal handling of carnitine leading to dyslipidemia, lethargy, muscular weakness, hypotension, cardiac dysfunction and arrhythmias, and recurrent cramps. It often is difficult to distinguish these symptoms from similar ones related to uremia and dialysis. Many investigators have advocated L-carnitine supplementation in an attempt to alleviate carnitine deficiencies, and good results from this therapy have been reported. Moreover, several studies have shown that L-carnitine supplementation improves the response to erythropoietin. Chronic inflammation is another particular aspect affecting these patients. Anti-inflammatory properties of L-carnitine in hemodialysis patients have been shown by our group. Treatment with L-carnitine (20 mg/kg, given intravenously at the end of each dialysis session for 6 mo), significantly decreased serum C-reactive protein (CRP) levels, a proinflammatory cytokine known to inhibit erythropoiesis. Moreover, data from published literature are indicative of L-carnitine modulation of the immune system by the activation of glucocorticoid receptors and the modulation of the transcription of glucocorticoid-responsive genes. Our study showed that in these patients, treatment with L-carnitine has been able to improve their body mass index, likely by promoting a positive protein balance. This aspect is strictly correlated with the status of insulin resistance, which is well described in patients with renal diseases. Many studies showed that carnitine allowed mitochondrial fatty acid usage to link to the rate of glucose usage, thus improving insulin resistance. In conclusion, clinical beneficial effects of L-carnitine treatment on patients suffering from renal diseases are supported by molecular evidence involving both inflammatory and metabolic aspects of the disease
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