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£150k kidney research funding awarded to Wales

01 March 2023

Neath Port Talbot kidney patient Jamie Bowen is excited about the prospect of vital research taking place on his doorstep. Two joint research awards totalling £150,000 have been awarded by two charitable organisations, Kidney Research UK and Kidney Wales, who have combined efforts to support research in Wales. 

Research to help people like Jamie

Two Cardiff based researchers are set to drive new projects tackling kidney disease, thanks to this funding.  

The first signs of Jamie’s decline into kidney failure took place on one of the highest peaks in the world. In 2016 he thought he experienced altitude sickness while scaling Mount Kilimanjaro. Just one year on he struggled to climb the stairs in his house. He eventually ended up in hospital where he discovered he would need a transplant and urgent dialysis treatment.  

Now aged 50, whilst Jamie still isn’t able to climb the heights that he previously could, he has been able to continue his passion for the great outdoors thanks to receiving a kidney from a friend. 

Jamie Bowen said: I get an enormous sense of pride when I think that we have such brilliant people conducting cutting edge research in Wales. Life with kidney disease is uncertain and any research that can help us to understand the condition and potentially offer people like me a bit of hope is worth doing. “ 

Jamie Bowen
Kidney disease has limited Jamie’s passion for climbing and adventure

Partnering to progress research

Kidney Research UK and Kidney Wales are partnering to accelerate the fight against kidney disease with the aim of expanding our existing knowledge base and creating future pathways to treatments. The two teams, led by Dr Soma Meran and Professor Ian Humphreys, will begin their work in Cardiff with the hope of discoveries emerging in the next three years.   

Dr Meran’s work will look to understand the causes behind kidney related heart disease. People with kidney disease will often suffer from vascular calcification, where the build-up of calcium and phosphates in the blood stream hardens within the blood vessels. There is no cure for this condition which leaves kidney patients at risk of heart disease. 

The team estimate that the levels of inflammation as a result of kidney disease can cause damage to the walls of the arteries, encouraging them to harden to a bone like state. Dr Meran’s research will seek to understand the link between inflammation and vascular calcification in kidney disease patients by looking at blood cells, lab models and blood samples.  

Professor Ian Humphreys will look at how certain amino acids are involved in supporting patients’ response to viruses. Kidney transplant patients are required to take immunosuppressant drugs that prevent their body from rejecting the new organ. Unfortunately, this also means that they are more susceptible to viruses due to their now dampened immune response.  

The immune system is formed of T-cells and natural killer cells and like our own bodies, these require certain nutrients known as amino acids. One of these could hold the answer to boosting a kidney patient’s immune system. Known as L-arginine, this ammino acid has been seen to promote T-cell response, helping them to expand in numbers.  

What this means for patients

Elaine Davies, director of research operations at Kidney Research UK, said: “Working in partnership with Kidney Wales has allowed us to discover talented researchers in Cardiff and help them to bring their research to life. Despite the ongoing challenge of the cost-of-living crisis, we remain fully committed to funding life-changing research that can be translated into real-world benefits for kidney patients.”

Ross Evans, managing director of Kidney Wales said: “We are so excited to be partnering with Kidney Research UK to fund and award two, three-year PhD studentships in Wales. This is something of a new approach for Kidney Wales, but it we hope to continue this partnership to fund more research and accelerate discoveries, which will benefit our kidney community here in Wales.”  

Meanwhile, Jamie is thankful and hopeful for the future. “My transplant was game changing. I cannot wait to see if these projects produce something game changing, it will be a proud day for kidney patients and a proud day for Wales as well.” 

The funded projects will all commence in 2023 and run continuously over the next three years. Find out more about the research we're funding. 

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