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The search for a new way to keep bone and blood vessels healthy in chronic kidney disease patients

22 May 2023

Dr Donald Ward from the University of Manchester is supported by a Kidney Research UK grant of £245,00.

The problem

Small glands in our neck, called parathyroid glands, release parathyroid hormone (PTH) to control how much calcium is in our blood and bones.

In patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) too much PTH is released, leading to bone loss and hardening of blood vessels. Parathyroid glands contain a calcium-sensing receptor (CaR) that controls PTH secretion, However, in CKD the receptor does not work properly.

Donald and his team think that the high levels of phosphate in the blood that can occur in CKD may cause problems with the CaR.

Dr Donald Ward in his lab next to a microscope holding a bottle of liquid
Dr Donald Ward, University of Manchester

The solution

Donald wants to ensure that the parathyroid gland releases less PTH. There are drugs available that lower phosphate, but they don’t stop excess PTH release. Donald will look at treatments that act directly on the receptor, rather than lowering the level of phosphate in the blood.

What this might mean for kidney patients

By understanding how phosphate increases PTH release we can better target our search for improved treatments to avoid bone loss and blood vessel stiffening in CKD. Donald and his team hope that this will lead to important improvements in quality of life and life expectancy for CKD patients.

Mae Smith, Kidney Research UK public and patient involvement manager, said “This research is going to be so important for so many kidney patients. Having kidney disease places enough of a burden on their lives, without the added fear of complications such as bone loss, frailty or cardiovascular risks. If this research could potentially reduce the risk of those complications, I am sure it will be welcomed by many patients to reduce their fears and worries as they face this horrible disease.”

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