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Behind-the-scenes at the lab for transplant games’ dad

21 February 2020
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A father of three, who had a kidney transplant a month after celebrating his 50th birthday, went behind-the-scenes at a research lab after winning a competition at the British Transplant Games.

Ian Tennant, from Warrington, glimpsed first hand the work that happens in the Lennon Lab at the University of Manchester during a visit to the facility with his daughter Bridie.

Ian scooped first place in a Kidney Research UK competition at the British Transplant Games last year, winning a visit to his nearest research lab, after explaining what he would ask a researcher if his entry was successful.

Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) runs in Ian’s family, and he discovered 25 years ago that he too had the disease. When he reached aged 50, Ian was told he either needed a transplant or to go on dialysis. His eldest son, Dan, donated a kidney to his dad, with the operation taking place just a month after Ian celebrated the landmark birthday in 2017.

During the lab visit, Ian and Bridie met kidney researchers Rachel Lennon and Richard Naylor, who explained the differences between various stages of research, their work investigating Alport syndrome, and current PKD research.

Father and daughter were then kitted out for a tour of the lab, which included a demonstration of some of the equipment, such as a centrifuge, a device that spins samples at very high speed to separate into different parts, and a rocker, a tool that mixes solutions on protein gels. Towards the end of the visit, Richard highlighted his research on using zebra fish to explore how the matrix (scaffolds in the body) affects cyst formation in PKD. Ian and Bridie took turns examining zebra fish embryos with a microscope, before looking at them under a fluorescent light to see the kidney.

“The visit was extremely informative, and it gave me a real insight into what goes on in a research lab – not many people get the opportunity to see that first hand,” said Ian. “From a personal point of view, it was so encouraging to hear about Richard’s research for PKD. This is a hereditary disease that will impact future generations of many families. It’s too late for me, but it’s really promising for the future that people like Richard are looking specifically at these conditions.”

Richard added: “Hearing about Ian’s transplant and his story makes me realise just what affect the disease is having on patients. When you’re in a science lab, you scurry away on research and don’t always understand the impact on people like Ian.
“It was great that Ian had so many questions and that I was able to provide some answers and hope for the future.”

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Did you know Kidney Research UK can support engagement with researchers and patients? Check out our website to see some of the ways we can support with our Kidney Voices for Research community and our sponsorship scheme for Patient Information Days. Email patients@kidneyresearchuk.org with any questions.

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