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New resource drives vital research in chronic kidney disease

21 June 2023

A new publication from NURTuRE – the first national UK chronic kidney disease cohort study with a linked biobank, developed as a collaboration between Kidney Research UK, research groups and pharmaceuticals companies – has been published in Nephrology, Dialysis and Transplantation. Alongside highlighting important patterns in kidney function and use of prescription medications in chronic kidney disease patients, this new study clearly demonstrates the potential for NURTuRE to support vital new breakthroughs in kidney medicine.

Meeting the growing need for innovation in kidney disease management

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) impacts more than 3 million people in the UK, often with serious outcomes. There is an increasing understanding that to better manage kidney disease we need to look closely at the many pathways and mechanisms that can lead to a diagnosis of CKD. This new NURTuRE paper presents results on the number of CKD patients enrolled in the biobank, age, gender and other demographic characteristics, alongside detailed clinical and biological information.

Prof Taal at a Kidney Research UK event
Professor Maarten Taal

Professor Maarten Taal, lead author on the paper, commented

“NURTuRE (the National Unified Renal Translational Research Enterprise) offers researchers a unique opportunity to improve our knowledge of factors related to poor outcomes in CKD patients, potentially supporting earlier identification of the most at-risk patients and more effective treatment choices. NURTuRE should also help us find new treatment targets.” 

Introducing NURTuRE

NURTuRE contains information from patients living with different types of kidney disease in the UK, providing a unique resource to support important new research. To date, patients diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and idiopathic nephrotic syndrome (INS) have been recruited, with acute kidney injury (AKI) scheduled to begin soon.

The NURTuRE team collected and securely stored biological samples from approximately 3,000 patients with CKD and plan to include up to 800 patients with idiopathic nephrotic syndrome (INS). This type of collection of samples for research is known as a ‘biobank’. In addition to samples of plasma, serum, urine, DNA and tissue, NURTuRE will link to long-term clinical (healthcare) data, through the UK Renal Registry and NHS Digital. The information in NURTuRE will support crucial new research, offering hope to many patients living with kidney diseases.

A rich source of information to support vital future research

Results from Professor Taal’s paper showed that of the 2,996 patients in the CKD cohort, more than half were aged 65 years or greater, just less than 60% were male and most were of white ethnicity (84%). The four most common causes of CKD included glomerular disease (relating to the filters within the kidney), diabetes and hereditary diseases but in a large proportion the cause was unknown. The team also found differences between males and females enrolled in NURTuRE. Results showed that females in the CKD group were younger and less likely to be diagnosed with diabetes or heart disease. Females were also less likely to be treated with medications called renin-angiotensin system inhibitors and statins, and had a lower predicted risk of needing to start dialysis. The reasons for these differences will be explored in future studies. 

Participants with lower kidney function were more likely to be older, male, of white ethnicity and have a diabetes diagnosis, alongside differences in biochemical measures. Results also showed that nearly 70% of patients would be classed as ‘high-risk’ based on the available risk assessments. Professor Taal commented “These early results show important differences within the CKD population, highlighting the need to look at individualised management. The long-term follow-up data, and detailed patient information in NURTuRE, will support future research designed to allow a more personalised approach to CKD care.” 

Next steps for NURTuRE

From late 2023/early 2024, researchers not involved in the initial collaboration will be able apply to access NURTuRE samples and data for their own research, subject to approval. Plans are also underway to include new types of kidney diseases in the NURTuRE programme.

Michael Nation, director of NURTuRE at Kidney Research UK added, “Everyone involved in the NURTuRE collaborative should be proud of the progress that we have made. We have an exciting year ahead as the biobank opens for external research applications and we begin recruitment of our third patient cohort. I’d like to thank everyone who has supported us, but particularly the patients who joined and advised us enabling the progress we see today.” 

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