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Research to improve our understanding of polycystic kidney disease and discover new treatments

03 March 2023

Professor Saeb-Parsy and Cristina Pinel Neparidze’s work is supported by a Kidney Research UK PhD studentship grant of £94,000.

The problem

Polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is a genetic disease that causes fluid-filled cysts to grow within the kidney. The cysts become larger over time and ultimately limit kidney function. Currently available medications can slow progression, but a better understanding of how the disease develops could lead to more effective treatments. 

Cristina Pinel Neparidze, studying for a PhD with Professor Saeb-Parsy
Cristina Pinel Neparidze, studying for a PhD with Professor Saeb-Parsy

"I am very grateful to Kidney Research UK for this opportunity to investigate the most common genetic cause of kidney disease. I am looking forward to shedding light on this condition and uncovering novel therapeutic avenues. Hopefully, our research efforts will help improve the lives of many patients and reduce the need for transplants and dialysis." Cristina Pinel Neparidze

The solution

Scientists use cells in a petri dish to study diseases in the lab; this is known as cell culture and has been available since the 1950s. The use of ‘kidney organoids’ (miniature, simplified versions of kidneys that can be grown in the lab) offers an improved way of studying human kidneys compared with the more traditional approach. Cristina is going to grow kidney organoids in the lab at the University of Cambridge, to investigate how the cysts in PKD develop. 

What this might mean for kidney patients

Kidney organoids provide a more accurate model of human kidneys than the single-cell approach. Using these models, Cristina will learn more about how to limit the growth of the cysts in PKD, and potentially how to prevent their formation. Currently, PKD patients experience declining kidney function until they require renal replacement therapy, as available therapies slow disease progression but cannot stop it. The team will not only learn from their kidney organoids but will also work alongside pharmaceuticals companies to support development of new treatments for PKD. 

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