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Development of an organ-on-a-chip model of polycystic kidney disease for testing new therapies 

10 January 2024

Professor Martin Knight from Queen Mary University London has been awarded a Start Up Grant of £40,000 to develop a novel model of polycystic kidney disease (PKD) to test new therapies. 

Hand holding up a organ-on-a-chip model
An organ-on-a-chip

The problem

PKD is a genetic disorder where fluid-filled sacs called cysts form in the kidneys, affecting their function over time and often leading to kidney failure. Autosomal dominant PKD (ADPKD), which means that if a parent has PKD, there's a 50% chance that their child will inherit the faulty gene and develop kidney cysts, is the most common form of PKD, affecting 13 million people worldwide.

Currently, there is a lack of effective treatments that could change disease progression, and a lack of models to accurately test new therapies, leaving the only options as dialysis or transplant. 

The solution

Martin and his team will develop an organ-on-a-chip (a bioengineered device consisting of living cells grown within a controlled environment designed to replicate the behaviour of organs in the body) model of ADPKD.

In collaboration with a commercial company, who will use gene-editing technology to make cells with the most common gene faults seen in patients with ADPKD, Martin and the team will then grow the cells within their organ-on-a-chip model.

This is a promising option for testing therapies as it allows researchers to study how potential treatments may affect organs, providing valuable information for developing and refining new therapies.   

What this might mean for patients

This novel technology has huge potential to support research and speed up the development and testing of new therapies for ADPKD. 

“We are very pleased to have this funding from Kidney Research UK to start the development of an organ-chip model of polycystic kidney disease. We hope that this emerging technology will stimulate the delivery of successful treatments for people with this disease.” Professor Martin Knight

Fair haired man, smiling to camera, wearing white shire, red round neck jumper and grey jacket
Professor Martin Knight, Queen Mary University London

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