Detailed structural and functional maps of the human kidney generated using cutting-edge scanning technology are being developed in an effort to optimize treatment strategies for those suffering from chronic kidney disease.
The research, conducted by scientists from the University of Nottingham (UK), is being funded with GBP 107,623 from the Dr. Hadwen Trust, a non-animal biomedical research charity. The goal of the project is to try to further determine of how the kidneys function, ultimately leading to enhanced monitoring, and treatment for chronic kidney disease. It will be the first of its kind to use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study the role oxygen plays in keeping the human kidney healthy.
The study is being led by Dr. Sue Francis at the University’s Sir Peter Mansfield Magnetic Resonance Center in collaboration with Prof. Chris McIntyre at the University’s School of Medicine. Dr. Francis said, “Current tests for chronic kidney disease can be very invasive and patients may need to return to the hospital on a number of occasions. The aim of this project is to produce a set of noninvasive measurements that we can produce in a single, one-hour scanning session that can assess the blood flow and oxygenation of the kidney and which could eventually be rolled out in a clinical setting to benefit patients.”
Disease is now diagnosed by a blood test that measures the glomerular filtration rate (GFR). In more serious kidney disorders, a renal biopsy may need to be performed. Dr. Francis added, “Current methods can only offer a fairly crude picture of what is happening in the kidneys and how that is changing over time. For example, if one kidney is doing most of the work it can be difficult to tell and taking just a small sample of tissue from one area of the kidney may not be representative of the organ as a whole.”
The study will instead use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), powered by a 3-Tesla magnet, to scan the kidney and construct a comprehensive image of perfusion in the kidney. It will also measure the metabolic rate of oxygen, which has not been done before using MRI technology. The research will employ new MRI technology, and use these techniques in healthy volunteers to study the kidney’s response to oxygen and CO2 changes to evaluate how the kidney acts under stress, which mimics diseased kidneys. Next, the researchers will scan 20 patients with diabetic nephropathy in an effort to validate the effectiveness of their approach. The scanning technique could be used to monitor the progression of a patient’s disease and to monitor the effect and effectiveness of drugs being used to treat the disorder.
University of Nottingham