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Using the kidney biopsy to personalise management of atypical haemolytic uraemic syndrome

12 May 2022

With our funding, Professor David Kavanagh from Newcastle University and Professor Ian Roberts from Oxford University Hospitals will study ways to identify which kidney patients will respond to drug treatment for atypical haemolytic uremic syndrome (aHUS).

Professor David Kavanagh
Professor David Kavanagh

What is aHUS?

aHUS is a destructive kidney condition that affects a patient’s immune system, causing it to attack their kidney cells. Until recently, most patients with aHUS developed kidney failure. Kidney transplant was not previously possible as the disease would attack and destroy the new kidney just as it did the patient’s own kidney. This meant that patients often required long-term dialysis treatment.

Our research led to a breakthrough drug treatment, but not all patients respond

In the late 1990s, pioneering research led by Professor Tim Goodship at Newcastle University, funded by Kidney Research, revealed how aHUS causes damage to the kidneys and ultimately led to the successful introduction of the drug eculizumab into clinical practice via the National Renal Complement Therapeutics Centre in Newcastle

Eculizumab works by stopping part of the immune system which is overactive in patients with aHUS. Although it is usually successful in treating patients with aHUS, there is a small group of patients who do not respond to the drug, but there is no way of quickly identifying these patients before treatment. As eculizumab suppresses the immune system, its use carries an increased risk of infections that can lead to meningitis, so it is vital that patients who don’t stand to benefit are not given the drug.

Finding a solution

We have awarded Professor David Kavanagh from Newcastle University and Professor Ian Roberts from Oxford University Hospitals with a research project grant to look at the kidney biopsies of aHUS patients to see if it is possible to identify characteristics that would predict who will respond to eculizumab and recover kidney function.

What could this mean for kidney patients?

This work will ultimately prevent patients who will not benefit from eculizumab being put at risk of meningitis.

David’s work is funded by a research project grant from Kidney Research UK for £200,000.


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