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Driving progress in research into kidney disease in children and young people

13 December 2023

New research is crucial for improving our understanding of the unique challenges in children’s kidney health, identifying and treating kidney diseases that specifically affect children, improving the overall quality of care, and learning more about the long-term impact on adult health.

We are proud to support a great range of research projects designed to benefit children from unravelling the mysteries of rare diseases to exploring innovative therapies and interventions. Below are just a few examples of how our researchers are working towards a healthier, brighter future for the next generation. 

Daniel Cornet
Funding paediatric research to help children like Daniel

Research we've been funding to help children and young people

Supporting vital blood vessel research for children with kidney disease

Children with chronic kidney disease (CKD) have an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD), which we know can lead to blood vessel damage - an important cause of illness and death, particularly among those receiving dialysis.  

There is an urgent need to better understand what causes blood vessel damage, and ultimately to develop new treatments to prevent CVD in children receiving dialysis.  

With funding from the Sutherland family, Professors David Long and Rukshana Shroff from Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health at University College London hope to address this problem. 

Dr Rukshana Shroff
Dr Rukshana Shroff

Reducing complications in children on haemodialysis

Central venous lines (CVLs) are tubes that are inserted into a vein and left in to allow access to blood for dialysis. However, so far, the CVLs do not work well in children and patients often require multiple lines to be replaced. 

With our funding, Dr Claudio Capelli from University College London and his team want to use engineering software, computer analyses and experiments in the lab to redesign CVLs specifically for use in children, which could lead to dialysis that is safer and more effective. 

Man with beard, wearing a blue striped shirt, with city building behind him
Dr Claudio Capelli

Investigating inequalities in kidney transplantation for children and young people

When it comes to medical treatment, there should be no inequalities. A report we commissioned in 2018 found that in adults, there are differences in care based on sex, ethnicity and where in the country the patient lives, but we need more information on whether the same pattern is seen in young people and children. 

Dr Lucy Plumb is investigating whether gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic factors affect the chances of a child receiving a kidney transplant. 

This vital work supports one of our key aims of making kidney health equal for everyone. By identifying any inequalities and looking for interventions to address them, Lucy and her team will help support better access to donor kidneys for those who most need them. 

Headshot of Lucy in her office
Dr Lucy Plumb

Engineering mini kidneys to understand development and disease

Some children are born with kidney disease. It would be extremely useful to be able to grow miniature, simplified versions of kidneys called organoids from cells from babies known to be at risk of kidney disease to study the disease before the baby is born, test potential therapies and possibly even intervene to prevent kidney damage, but there is currently no non-invasive way to do this. 

Developing human foetuses are cushioned in a liquid called amniotic fluid, and this fluid is mostly made up of the developing foetus’ urine, which will contain the same kidney cells as adult urine. Dr Mattia Gerli, from University College London and the Royal Free Hospital, has been awarded a PhD studentship to investigate whether kidney organoids can be grown from samples of amniotic fluid. 

If successful, this would be a huge step towards personalised medicine, allowing researchers to identify and study disease, test potential therapies, and will even open the possibility of correcting kidney problems before a baby is born. 

Mattia Gerli
Dr Mattia Gerli

Can urine-based markers in children with IgA vasculitis help us to understand, predict and prevent kidney damage?

Immunoglobulin A (IgA) vasculitis (also known as Henoch-Schönlein Purpura) is a disease that causes the immune protein IgA to collect in small blood vessels throughout the body, resulting in them becoming inflamed and leaking blood. It is more common in children, and it can cause rashes, tummy pain, joint pain, and kidney damage. Most children go on to make a full recovery, but 1–2 in every 100 will go on to develop kidney failure. 

Dr Louise Oni from the University of Liverpool has been awarded a Paediatric Research Project grant to investigate whether the levels of certain immune substances in the urine can be used to predict which children with IgA vasculitis will go on to develop kidney damage, and whether drugs targeting these immune substances could prevent this. 

Dr Louise Oni
Dr Louise Oni

Looking for new markers of kidney rejection in children to support personalised care

Professor Stephen Marks from University College London Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health has been awarded the Laurence Isaacson Award to employ a research student to look for new ways of identifying kidney rejection before it happens.  

These signs, known as ‘biomarkers’, are expected to rely on specialised blood tests, offering a simpler and safer approach than biopsies.   

By developing a new biomarker test that allows early signs of rejection to be identified promptly and in a non-invasive way, we could transform the management of children with kidney transplant. 

Professor Stephen Marks
Professor Stephen Marks

Lucy Sreeves, executive director of income generation and communications at Kidney Research UK noted: “We are so proud to be able to support vital research in childhood kidney diseases and would like to thank all the individuals and organisations whose donations have allowed us to do so. Every contribution, no matter how big or small, makes it possible for us to fund more research and find more solutions giving hope to children living with kidney disease and their families.” 

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