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The Sutherland award: supporting vital blood vessel research for children with kidney disease

14 February 2023

The problem 

Children with chronic kidney disease (CKD) have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD). This can lead to blood vessel damage, which is an important cause of illness and death, particularly among those receiving dialysis. There is an urgent need to better understand what causes blood vessel damage, and ultimately to develop new treatments to prevent CVD in children receiving dialysis. 

The solution

Professors David Long and Rukshana Shroff from Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health at University College London hope to address this problem. Together, with a PhD student, David and Rukshana will use a 3-dimensional model of human blood vessels in a dish to replicate the changes that happen in the blood vessels of children with CKD.

David’s team will expose these blood vessels to serum (a liquid part of blood) from healthy children, children with pre-dialysis CKD and dialysis patients. The researchers will then study how the serum affects flow within the blood vessels using a special dye and imaging technology. The amount of calcium and phosphate present in serum has been identified as a key factor in the progression of CVD in patients with CKD.

David hopes that a model of the impact of calcium and phosphate on blood vessels will also be developed in this project. Importantly, David and his team plan to use the model to help to identify genes that are changed in blood vessels following the addition of serum which will allow the identification and testing of drugs that may help children with CKD at risk of CVD in future. 

Blood vessels with dye using imaging technoglogy
Imaging technology to view blood vessels

What this might mean for kidney patients

By establishing new human models of CKD, David’s team will improve our understanding of CVD disease in children with CKD, potentially supporting improved treatment options for children at risk of this serious complication. 

Elaine Davies, director of research operations at Kidney Research UK said “We are delighted to be able to fund David and his colleagues to undertake this important research and would like to thank the Sutherland family for their ongoing support, without which vital studies such as this would not be possible.” 

Professor David Long in the research lab
Prof David Long

The award of a Sutherland studentship from Kidney Research UK provides an exciting opportunity to develop a new human model to study cardiovascular complications in children with chronic kidney disease. Additionally, the award will kick start the career of a new researcher in the kidney field, a critical area of investment for the charity if we are to find new treatments for children with chronic kidney disease.Professor Long

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