Research fellowship to help tackle chronic kidney disease

Digital illustration of Mitochondria in colour background

Around three million people in the UK live with chronic kidney disease (CKD), experiencing muscle weakness and wasting as a result.

Now new research led by the University of Plymouth hopes to improve patients’ quality of life by establishing how mitochondria (the ‘power stations’ of our cells) are involved in the deterioration. 

Led by Dr Jane Carré in the University’s Institute of Translational and Stratified Medicine (ITSMed), the project forms the basis of Dr Carré’s Daphne Jackson Trust Fellowship sponsored by Kidney Research UK.

Dr Jane Carré

Dr Carré explains the science behind the work:

“All cells need energy to work properly. Similar to a power station, mitochondria – which are found in the cells of every complex organism – turn energy from food into a form of energy that helps cells do their work. Because of this essential role in energy flow, problems with our organs can occur if mitochondria become damaged, if cells do not assemble enough mitochondria, or if energy supply and the cells’ workload are not properly balanced.

“Mitochondrial changes are observed in patients with muscle weakness and muscle wasting in CKD, but it is not clear whether these changes affect energy supply in muscles, or if they are driven by alterations of the cells’ energy needs. This is an important issue to address since it affects the success of mitochondrial therapies in general. Using muscle cells grown in conditions that mimic kidney failure, the research will look at how mitochondrial changes affect the overall system of energy supply and workload.”

Dr Carré’s work will take place between the ITSMed labs of Bioinformatics, led by Professor Matthias Futschik, and Mitochondrial Biology, led by Dr Charles Affourtit.

Marc Stowell, Director of Communications and Income Generation from Kidney Research UK, said:

“Muscle weakness and wasting can be debilitating for patients with chronic kidney disease, seriously impacting their quality of life and often, their independence too. We hope Dr Carré’s work reveals more about why these unwelcome conditions accompanying kidney disease occur. It’s possible it could suggest new ways to treat them in the future.”

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