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A research team supported by Kidney Research UK has been awarded £783,190 to enable the clinical translation of renal imaging and transform the way kidney disease is diagnosed and treated.

The University of Nottingham will be working on this partnership grant from the Medical Research Council alongside the University of Cambridge, University College London, and the University of Leeds.

In recent years, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has emerged as a promising new non-invasive approach for assessing, monitoring and managing kidney disease. With 10% of the world’s population living with chronic kidney disease, MRI has an essential role to play in improving the identification of patients most in need of treatment and monitoring their progress.

Professor Susan Francis from the Sir Peter Mansfield Imaging Centre (SPMIC) at Nottingham is leading the project and explains how MRI can help in managing kidney disease: “These new non-invasive renal MRI methods will allow various aspects of the kidney’s function to be assessed by imaging the organ itself. Imaging the kidney using MRI has the potential to improve the management of kidney patients through better diagnosis, better assessment of prognosis and the effect of therapy, and accelerating new drug discovery.”

This MRC partnership scheme will work with the UK Renal Imaging Network (UKRIN) and 13 other UK imaging sites, Kidney Research UK and the manufacturers of MRI scanners.

Michael Nation, Director of Research Development at Kidney Research UK, commented: “The team at Kidney Research UK has been instrumental in this UK-wide collaborative approach that we feel will deliver significant enhancements in diagnostic and prognostic procedures. We look forward to working with the partners to help ensure this partnership is a success and that its potential is realised for patient benefit.”

Global first for renal imaging

Professor Francis continued: “This initiative will allow us to work together to create a national guide that brings a consistent approach to renal imaging that can be used in clinical practice to improve the management of kidney disease. Through this partnership grant we will develop a renal MRI platform, share expertise, build capacity and develop a harmonized approach. This will also allow researchers to carry out large scale clinical trials and share the results which will bring benefits to patients more quickly.”

In addition to developing new standardised MR scanning techniques, the project also aims to establish a common image database, where research scans can be easily shared between centres. This will help to accelerate research studies evaluating new therapies, by combining patient data from different sites and increasing the ability to evaluate the effectiveness of novel treatments.

Patients are also involved in the project and are sharing their experiences to help shape the new clinical applications of the research. Kate Paget, who is a patient representative for the project said: “As a kidney patient, I have experienced first-hand the stress and physical hardship caused by renal disease. It is because of this experience that I recognise the absolute importance of this collaborative project which will deliver significant enhancements in diagnostic and prognostic procedures.

“It is essential that the patient experience of renal disease, and that of their families is improved. I believe this project will do that and underpin many areas of renal research.

“My specific interest lies in the impact that these new methodologies and technologies could have on increasing the number of kidneys available for transplantation and improving the care of kidney patients after transplantation, therefore reducing the number of kidney transplants that fail.”

Progress and updates on the project will be available through a new website and via social media.

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