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For the first time, Kidney Research UK has sponsored events at the annual Pint of Science festival, which runs across the world in spring each year. In the UK, 26 cities held Pint of Science activities from 15-17 May, covering lots of different aspects of science, in local pubs and hostelries. The whole festival saw hundreds of people discovering and learning about science in informal atmospheres over a pint!

Kidney Research UK was represented by some of its key funded researchers and their teams at events in five cities across the UK: Bristol, Cardiff, Oxford, Liverpool and Sheffield.

At these packed events, members of the general public got to hear about how amazing an organ the kidney is, how it works, what happens when it fails and, most importantly, what remarkable research is being carried out right across the country to find cures for kidney diseases, and to improve patients’ lives.

In Bristol, the audience in the cosy Eldon House pub saw Dr Gavin Welsh, Non-Clinical Senior Lecture in Renal Cell Biology and Dr Carl May, Research Associate, both from the University of Bristol, unpack the extraordinary filter that the kidney is. They explained how damage to the filtration cells, especially the podocytes, can cause a massive system breakdown. Both scientists work on trying to understand nephrotic syndrome at the molecular level and how toxic circulating factors in the blood impact the kidney.

In Cardiff’s O’Neills pub, Professor Donald Fraser, Director, Wales Kidney Research Unit and Dr Tim Bowen, Senior Lecturer, Cardiff University School of Medicine, spoke about chronic kidney disease (CKD) and the challenges of identifying biomarkers that will ‘tell you you’re going to get sick before you get sick’.

At the George Street Social club in Oxford, Kidney Research UK Fellow Dr Joanna Hester, and postgrad student, Kate Milward, from Oxford University, spoke about how the body’s immune system can be both friend and foe when it comes to organ transplants. After transplant, the system might recognise the foreign body part and begin to reject it. Their work explores regulatory T cell therapy and mechanisms of suppression which might enable more transplants to be successful.

There were two kidney research-based events in Liverpool. At the Shipping Forecast alehouse, a mixed science evening saw Dr Rachel Floyd, Kidney Research UK Fellow based at the University of Liverpool, stimulate the audience with a presentation on the global ticking time bomb that is antibiotic resistance. Rachel enthralled everyone explaining how infections are regulated by cryptic conversations between invading bacteria and the cells of the body, and how crucial it is to crack the code to understand these conversations. At the interval, the audience was challenged to write a limerick about what they’d heard. Our Patient Involvement Coordinator, Sarah Harwood, and community champion, Christy Millar, came up with the best one and won. Their prize – a flu germ model!

At the other Liverpool event, Professor Trisha Murray, Professor of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine Research at Liverpool University, spoke about the huge impact that stem cell research in science and medicine might have for treating degenerative conditions. Trisha also spoke about her work on advanced technologies that are shedding light on how stem cells help repair injured kidneys.

The City of Sheffield saw a highly interactive event held at the Sentinel Brewhouse. The audience were treated to a narrative on the secret life of kidneys by Professor Albert Ong (pictured left), Professor of Renal Medicine at the University of Sheffield, and Dr Andrew Lewington, Consultant Kidney Specialist and honorary Associate professor at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. Also on offer was the opportunity to have urine and blood pressure tests, see a display of a calf’s kidney and engage with a demonstration on how the kidney works. Professor Ong also intrigued the audience with a presentation about what the ancient Chinese believed the kidneys did, and how their knowledge developed.

Huge thanks to the scientists and researchers who spoke on our behalf and all the volunteers who made each pub talk go so well!

At all the locations there were opportunities to talk to people, some of whom were patients or related to someone with kidney disease, and to hear their stories.

Sarah Harwood, Kidney Research UK’s Patient Involvement Coordinator, was delighted to be able to attend one of the Liverpool evenings. She said: “The wide range of information about research and the way it was presented made it all the more fascinating. The thing that really struck me, though, was the passion demonstrated by the researchers as they shared their work and the hunger from the crowd to hear all about it!”

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