Keeping research going
The world is a very different place than it was a few months ago. Our lives are constantly changing, and this has naturally impacted those working in kidney research.
Most labs in the UK are temporarily closed and many of our patient-led studies have paused in line with government guidance. Many kidney researchers have downed tools to support the frontline health workers, either by returning to full-time clinical duties or taking on essential support roles, such as helping with the urgent COVID-19 testing in the lab.
We are proud of our researchers and the contributions they are making. But we are also aware of the huge challenges they face and the impact that coronavirus is having on them and their research. We are doing everything possible to ensure our funded scientists can continue with the fight against kidney disease once research restarts with full force. We need our research to continue now more than ever – and to offer hope to people affected by kidney disease who are now so vulnerable.
The virtual world of science
Our breakthroughs don’t only happen in the lab.
Research projects must be meticulously planned, data analysed and results written up. Thankfully, some of these critical elements can be done remotely to keep research going.
Those projects just starting may be subject to delays, some of those in full swing may still be able to analyse data remotely and some of those coming to the end can be written up from home. Our scientists are committed, and research will continue however it can throughout this challenging time.
Our funded scientists, where possible, are taking their work into the virtual world, creating new resources online, analysing data and planning new collaborations and publications.
The times we are living in are difficult for everyone. But we can get through them. It means we have to change and adapt. We have to help each other, support what we can and prioritise health. In the words of one of our researchers, Dr Stephen Marks, “Stay calm, stay kind, stay safe and stay healthy.”
How are kidney researchers getting on?
Dr Jane Carre from the University of Plymouth is finding out whether mitochondria (the ‘power stations’ producing energy in our bodies’ cells) could explain why people with chronic kidney disease experience muscle weakness.
Lab work at Plymouth has come to a halt as everyone is working from home until further notice. My research activities are therefore limited to data analysis, reading, planning and writing – but there is always plenty of that to do. Obviously, like others with young family now at home, there will be an impact on efficiency and working pattern, but my fellowship has already helped me develop skills to deal with this!
Will Mason is a researcher at the Institute of Child Health in London, and is exploring a therapy that helps patients whose kidneys can’t filter blood anymore. By understanding the molecular structure of parts of the kidney, Will’s work could help to keep kidneys functioning as they should.
The lab might be closed but that doesn’t mean Will is stopping this work entirely. Thankfully, there are results to written up and papers to be published, so Will can work remotely during this time.
Cardiff University has closed its research buildings, but luckily Dr Anne-Catherine Raby was granted “essential worker” status to finish experiments with mice that were already ongoing. These experiments were helping her understand how to avoid damage to the peritoneal membrane during peritoneal dialysis. Not completing this work would have resulted in a waste of animal lives and was considered unethical.
Dr Carlo Alberto Ricciardi is a researcher working at Kings College London. He is hoping to develop new treatments for kidney disease in patients with diabetes by studying how a protein called Nogo-B protects the kidney’s blood vessels from the damage caused by diabetes. As COVID-19 shut down his place of work Dr Ricciardi started to work from home. Although his experiments are on hold, his usual lab work has been replaced by writing up his PhD thesis and reviewing scientific papers linked to his work.
I truly believe that problems can be turned into opportunities, to a certain extent, and we can certainly learn and improve ourselves from this unprecedented situation. Focusing on my writing skills is going to help me for my future growth as a clinical academic.
Our research is only possible with your support.
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