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Genetic influences on the progression of chronic kidney disease

20 February 2023

Dr Killian Donovan’s work is supported by a Kidney Research UK fellowship grant of £250,000.

The problem

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) progresses more rapidly in some people than in others. If doctors could identify patients who were likely to see faster declines in their kidney function early, they could monitor these people more closely and start treatments to slow the rate of progression promptly. Genetic differences between individuals (known as ‘variants’) are thought to be responsible for the way that CKD progresses in all types of kidney disease. 

Dr Killian Donovan
Dr Killian Donovan

The solution

Dr Donovan and his team at the University of Oxford will identify genetic variants that are important to CKD progression using information from research into around 3,500 people called the study of heart and renal progression (SHARP).

They will test these findings in people of different ethnicities using data from 3,500 people in the USA, 500,000 from the UK, 150,000 from Mexico and 100,000 from China. The team will also use these genetic variants to calculate how strong the link is between declining kidney function and heart disease.

What this might mean for kidney patients

Dr Donovan hopes the results will support development of a test allowing people at the highest risk of kidney disease to be identified and treated earlier. He also hopes to find out whether, and how, faster CKD progression causes heart disease. 

Helen Woodward and mum Sally on her graduation day
Helen Woodward and mum Sally

We watched our daughter’s slow deterioration over 22 years to kidney failure. It would have made life so much easier both for her and us to have a much clearer idea of prognosis and timescale. Personalised medicine is certainly the way forward.” Sally Woodward

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