Compound hydroxycitrate (HCA) can dissolve calcium oxalate crystals, the most common part of human kidney stones. The finding is expected to lead to new treatment.

Kidney stones are hard mineral deposits that affect up to 12% of men and 7% of women, University of Houston scientists said. Over the past three decades, products to treat the problem included potassium citrate, a supplement, as well as recommending patients drink large volumes of water.

But HCA may be preferred as a therapy, and is available as a dietary supplement.

More research is needed, including the long-term safety and dosage, but Jeffrey Rimer, Ph.D., University of Houston associate professor of chemical engineering and lead author, said there’s hope.

“Our initial findings are very promising,” he said. “If it works in vivo, similar to our trials in the laboratory, HCA has the potential to reduce the incidence rate of people with chronic kidney stone disease.”

Findings appeared Aug. 8 in Nature.