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Giving donor kidneys a boost so more transplants are possible

22 October 2019

What is the problem?

More than 5000 people are on the kidney transplant waiting list. Around half of all donor kidneys can’t be transplanted because they are not healthy enough, or doctors use ‘marginal’ kidneys of lower quality – but these are more susceptible to injury during the transplant process. We urgently need to make more kidneys suitable for transplant and to make them last longer.

The research

Emily Thompson from Newcastle University is working on a pioneering technique called ‘normothermic perfusion’ and using this technique to flush the kidney with treatments such as stem cell or gene therapies to see if they help to revive and repair the kidney. Emily has been testing two potential treatments - an anti-inflammatory stem cell to recondition the kidneys to work better, and a molecule called an antisense oligonucleotide therapy that boosts the kidney’s ability to deal with the lack of oxygen during the transplant process. She has discovered that when combined with normothermic perfusion, inflammatory stem cell treatments help to preserve and optimise the kidneys.

This research is funded by a Kidney
Research UK Training Fellowship Grant.

Emily Thompson

Emily Thompson

Clincial Research Fellow, Newcastle University

What it could achieve, and the difference it could make

The next step is to move this towards clinical trials in the next few years, to find out if it can minimise rejection and reverse damage. This exciting research is revealing new ways to make more kidneys suitable for transplant. It could offer hope to more people and shorten the waiting list and reduce the need for dialysis. Those who receive a transplant may receive better quality kidneys that last a lifetime.

Normothermic perfusion

Changing the way we transplant kidneys with normothermic perfusion

Over £850,000 in funding from Kidney Research UK, enabled Professor Mike Nicholson to develop and test the normothermic technique to revolutionise the way kidney transplant operations are done.

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