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New research hopes to shed light on polycystic kidney disease

02 October 2023

Dr Barbara Tanos and her team at Brunel University London work on structures found on the surface of cells called cilia. Kidney Research UK and The Thompson Family Charitable Trust are proud to be funding her work investigating the role of cilia in polycystic kidney disease (PKD).

Dr Barbara Tanos’ work is supported by The David Thompson Fellowship Award, and received a grant of £340,000.

A head shot of Barbara Tanos
Dr Barbara Tanos

"I am extremely grateful for this opportunity to contribute to ending PKD. This represents a fantastic opportunity to develop my research vision and to establish myself as a leading kidney research scientist. I have developed a key collaboration with Professor David Long and I anticipate that the synergy between both laboratories will bring great results."
Dr Barbara Tanos

The problem

It is estimated that there are approximately 70,000 people living with PKD in the UK. In PKD fluid filled sacs known as ‘cysts’ form in the kidneys, which can lead to serious kidney damage. Currently there are no treatments that can halt disease progression. Improving our understanding of PKD is vital to support the development of new ways to manage this problem 

The solution

Dr Barbara Tanos and her team at Brunel work on a part of cells known as ‘cilia’. Cilia are antennae-like structures coming out of the top of the cell; they sense information about the cell’s surroundings. The cell can then use this information to make changes and adapt to its environment. Defects in cilia are known to lead to PKD. However, the link between cilia and cyst formation is not well understood. Barbara will investigate how cilia can influence cellular structure in PKD. This will be carried out in collaboration with Professor David Long at UCL.    

What this might mean for kidney patients

Barbara’s work could inform on potential treatments that delay progression of PKD by slowing down cyst formation. PKD patients currently experience a progressive decline in kidney function until they need dialysis or kidney transplant: new approaches to reduce cyst formation are urgently needed. 

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