University to lead on European project to tackle kidney diseases

The University will coordinate a European research project aimed at the development of new devices and methods for diagnosing kidney disease.

When your kidneys are damaged, they may not work as well as they should. Kidney failure is the last (most severe) stage of chronic kidney disease. This is why kidney failure is also called end-stage kidney disease (ESKD). This stage has a significant impact on the lives of people suffering from it and their families.

Alongside requiring multiple medications to reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke, they need replacement of their kidney function from a kidney transplant or dialysis. Whilst kidney transplants are the optimal method of providing this, the need for kidney transplants outstrips their availability, meaning that people can wait a long time for their transplant. Dialysis, on the other hand, requires regular visits to hospital, very frequent blood tests and invasive procedures and is not always effective.


New therapies that can delay or prevent the progression of kidney injuries to ESKD are sorely needed and treatments based on mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) are showing great promise in preclinical studies. MSCs are an emerging therapeutic advancement for a wide range of degenerative and autoimmune disorders. These therapies are attractive because they have already been used in the clinic and therefore have high potential for clinical translation.

However, a number of challenges need to be overcome before these therapies can be routinely used for patients with kidney disease. In particular, more information of the risk:benefit ratio of MSCs and the underlying mechanisms by which they act to repair or regenerate tissue are necessary. In addition, the identification of patients that can benefit from these therapies would be greatly facilitated by cost-effective and convenient methods for diagnosing and accurately monitoring the disease.

The University of Liverpool, together with 14 partners, will address these challenges in a new EU project entitled ‘RenalToolBox’, that launched this month (November 2018). The project involves academic, industry and charity organisations in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, Belgium and Malaysia, and is coordinated by Professor Patricia Murray from the University’s Institute of Translational Medicine.

Great opportunity

The project will receive a total of 4.1 million euros from the European Commission’s Framework Programme Horizon 2020, over the course of four years. As one of the EU’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Networks (ITNs), the project places particular emphasis on the training of young researchers. It will provide support for 15 PhD students in all, and five of these will register for PhD studies within the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences.

Professor Murray, said: “This exciting research project will provide the appointed students with the required knowledge, skills and state-of-the-art technologies needed to investigate the true potential of renal regenerative medicine therapies”

Dr Arthur Taylor, who will manage the project, states: “As a former PhD student in a Marie Skłodowska-Curie ITN I know first-hand what a great opportunity this is for the appointed students and I look forward to the beginning of the research training activities.”

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