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Developing a new simple urine test to spot kidney transplant problems

28 June 2021

Thanks to a new grant from us, Dr Tim Bowen and his multidisciplinary team at Wales Kidney Research Unit at Cardiff University are working to develop a quick test to monitor how well kidneys are functioning after transplant without the need for unpleasant biopsies.

Tim Bowen and postdoc Dan Smith
Tim Bowen and postdoc Dan Smith

Some kidneys don’t function well after transplant

A donor kidney, once removed, doesn’t receive oxygen again until it is transplanted into the person receiving the kidney. This period without oxygen can damage the kidney tissue so that it does not work immediately after the operation. This is called ‘delayed graft function’ and can mean the kidney is more likely to be rejected and or not work properly in the longer term.

Right now, a kidney biopsy is often needed to test for delayed graft function and rejection. This painful procedure is carried out under general anaesthetic and can lead to complications such as bleeding and, occasionally, the new kidney can be lost.

Bypassing biopsies

We have awarded Tim Bowen and his team a £48,281 innovation grant. These awards are given to researchers in the early stages of developing novel and pioneering projects.

The funding will allow the team to develop a new test that could predict delayed graft function without the need for a biopsy.

The team has discovered that urine samples from kidney transplant patients with and without delayed graft function have different levels of recently discovered molecules called microRNAs. They have shown that these microRNAs can predict the risk of delayed graft function in kidney transplant patients.

Tim and his team have developed a method to electrically detect microRNAs in urine and now aim to make a simple dipstick probe that detects microRNAs in urine samples.

This research could provide a quick, reliable clinical test for delayed graft function that avoids unpleasant biopsies.

“My research group is delighted to receive this innovation award,” said Tim.  “This funding will allow us to continue developing a test to identify problems with kidneys following transplant operations. In this way we aim to make the most of donated kidneys and to improve the lives of people affected by kidney disease.”

Find out more

Read more about our newly funded research.

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