A new drug combination could end the agony of kidney stones by relaxing the body, to allow the painful lumps to pass more smoothly.
For most of the 500,000 Americans a year who develop kidney stones, the standard treatment plan is to take painkillers and wait for the stones to pass through the urethra, which can be extremely painful and takes up to 10 days.
However, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have discovered a two-drug combination that can relax the ureter, which connects the kidneys to the bladder, allowing the stones more space to pass.
The treatment, which was effective in animal models, would be the first new treatment for kidney stone patients in 40 years - a possible game changer as rates keep rising year-on-year.
Kidney stones are so notoriously painful they provided an entire storyline for the hit show Friends (pictured: Joey and Ross admiring the tiny crystals that inflicted so much agony)
'We think this could significantly impact kidney stone disease, which affects millions of people,' says Michael Cima, a professor of materials science and engineering at MIT, and a senior author of the study.
Kidney stones are made from hard crystals that accumulate in the kidneys when there is too much solid waste in the urine and not enough liquid to wash it out.
While surgery is recommended for larger stones, those cases are rare, and most are prescribed painkillers to wait it out.
But it is becoming a bigger problem for doctors.
In the 1970s, less than one in four Americans suffered from the debilitating condition. Today, about one in 10 people will have a kidney stone at some point in their lives.
Rates are rising fastest in women and