The importance of research into kidney disease

World Kidney Day 2014

World Kidney Day 2014 - Credit: Archant

How many of you, dear readers, ever think about your kidneys? You probably don’t because of the quiet and unobtrusive way they do their work of filtering an incredible 180 litres of blood a day!

Mark Dockrell

Mark Dockrell - Credit: Archant

Yes, that’s right, every drop of your blood is filtered approximately 35 times daily in an intricate process that ensures your blood stays balanced and your body stays healthy.

You only think about your kidneys when these amazing filtration devices start to fail and your kidney function declines. The early stages of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) have no physical warning symptoms but the consequences of untreated CKD can be devastating. You may be lucky and be accidentally diagnosed early through a routine test for something else. If not diagnosed early, the kidney function will continue to decline and eventually you will become ill. Kidney failure is an extremely debilitating illness. Some patients end up needing regular dialysis, some go on to have successful transplants, many patients die prematurely.

Two of the leading causes of CKD are high blood pressure and diabetes. Regular blood pressure checks; a healthy diet; and careful management of diabetes are of prime importance. Early diagnosis and treatment is essential to prevent the declining kidney function loss resulting in kidney failure.

You may be surprised to learn that the estimated prevalence of kidney diseases in the UK is at approximately 8.5% of the adult population – that is roughly 4.8 million people with 100,000 in Surrey alone - and patient numbers are increasing. We know that research is the only answer to find prevention or a cure.

The primary aim of the South West Thames Kidney Fund (charity reg. no. 800952) is to raise funds for research that will lead, step by step, to the successful treatment and eventual elimination of kidney disease. To this end, founders and volunteers built and now fund the SW Thames Institute for Renal Research, based at St Helier Hospital, Carshalton, Surrey, where scientists carry out high quality research into the pathology of kidney disease, developing improved methods for the detection of kidney disease and patient care.

Led by Dr Mark Dockrell, Lead Scientist, the research team is currently working on:

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• Developing new treatments to prevent kidney failure, in collaboration with pharmaceutical companies and other research organisations.

• Finding a way that the kidney can cure itself; collaborating internationally to test the ability to rebalance the diseased kidney.

• Prevention – ultimately better than a cure. The Research Institute has invented a new test that could help spot diabetic kidney disease early. They need to develop the test and show it works in more patients.

• Saving the transplant: too many transplanted kidneys fail. Spotting the signs of failure early can help prevent this and save the kidney.

Of course, all this comes at a price – research is an expensive process. BUT the benefits can be enormous. Even the modest goal of slowing down the progression of kidney disease to delay renal failure by just 1 year could result in a savings to the NHS of 1/3 of a billion pounds or £300,000,000!

If you feel this is worthwhile we would welcome your help. A donation would be great - or you could join our weekly lottery! The cost is just £1 per week with 50% of the weekly entry money going to the winning lottery number and the remaining 50% used to fund research. It’s a win/win situation! Just click on the link where you can download an application form or, for information on other ways you can support us, please visit

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