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Aiming to unlock a kidney mystery

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The remaining kidney of a donor often grows in order to compensate for the loss, allowing the donor to live on without complication.

It is somewhat unknown how this occurs, but a new research project aims to unravel the mystery and help people who suffer from reduced kidney function.

Professor Jonathan Gleadle from Flinders University intends to uncover exactly how a remaining kidney grows and increases its output to function at around 80 percent of the capacity of the previous two.

“The remaining kidney in a donor has a natural ability to compensate for the loss of the other, however the key initiators of this response are unknown,” Professor Gleadle said.

“Recent evidence indicates that this growth is in response to an initial sensing mechanism, and there is strong reason to consider microRNAs play a significant role.”

MicroRNAs are specific molecules released from cells under stress that serve as messengers, telling cells how to behave. They are known to play a role in basic cell processes, with the loss or unusual expression of MicroRNAs already associated with several diseases, including diabetes and kidney disease.

“Our team aims to identify the expression of circulating microRNAs using a novel technique which will enable us to investigate hundreds of miRNAs simultaneously after the removal of a kidney.” Prof Gleadle said.

“The ultimate aim of our research is to see new treatments that can trigger healthy kidney growth in diseased patients and remove or delay the need for dialysis and transplants.”

Up to ten percent of the global population suffers from chronic kidney disease, and in Australia, 53 people die from kidney-related disease each day.

It is estimated that the economic cost of treating kidney disease in the decade to 2020 will reach about $12 billion, indicating an urgent need to invest in research to develop new strategies and treatments.

Prof Gleadle was awarded a $50,000 grant from Kidney Health Australia to progress his research.