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Investigating the impact of haemodialysis on response to vaccination and infection

19 June 2024

Dr Douglas Fink from University College London (UCL) has received a Start-up Grant of £39,500 to investigate why responses to vaccination and infection is reduced in patients receiving haemodialysis (HD) and with chronic kidney disease (CKD). 

A male, wearing a white shirt, leaning up against a wall
Dr Douglas Fink

The problem 

Patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and who are receiving haemodialysis (HD) are at a higher risk of getting infections, such as COVID-19, and are less able to fight them off. Usually, vaccinations help the body to fight infection, but these individuals do not respond successfully and at present, the cause for this is not understood.   

Therefore, it is important to understand the fundamental differences in the immune systems of these individuals compared to those with normal kidney function, to begin to overcome this problem and to provide protection from infection.  

The solution  

The team at UCL have previously found that the part of the blood that remains when cells and proteins are removed, known as serum, block the ways that cells communicate within the immune system of individuals receiving HD. Other studies have shown that this communication is essential for a successful response to vaccination. Douglas will now test this in patients with kidney disease for the first time. 

Douglas and his team will compare the serum of patients receiving HD and with moderate to severe CKD against individuals with normal kidney function. They will look at how the blood serum differs in blocking cell communication and whether this worsens alongside kidney function.  

What this means for kidney patients  

This work hopes to support the identification of a new treatment target in the blood of people receiving HD and with CKD, leading to vaccination design that is better tailored to meet the needs of this at-risk group.  

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