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University academic part of new research into kidney disease

An academic at our University has been part of novel study carried out by an international team of researchers exploring the link between the immune system and kidney disease.

The study looks into a particular gene, alpha-defensin, which makes up part of our body’s first line of defence against infectious disease, and its potential link with an increased risk of developing a type of kidney disease called ‘IgA nephropathy’.

Dr Barratt, Reader in our Department of Infection, Immunity and Inflammation and Honorary Consultant Nephrologist in the John Walls Renal Unit, Leicester General Hospital, said: “IgA nephropathy is a devastating disease that most often affects young adults and significantly increases their risk of developing kidney failure. There is currently no treatment available. This work has identified key changes in the DNA of patients with IgA nephropathy that are associated with the risk of developing kidney failure meaning that we can now focus on specific genes as we search for the cause of this kidney disease.”

The main conclusion drawn by the researchers was that the greatest genetic risk factor for developing IgA nephropathy is the number and variety of alpha-defensin genes present in individuals.

IgA nephropathy, also referred to as Berger’s Disease, is a condition in which a type of protein produced by the body to combat infection, called‘Immunoglobulin A’, resides in the kidney leading to scarring and inflammation. In extreme cases this can lead to kidney failure.

These findings have created a foundation for researchers and healthcare professionals to improve the likelihood of identifying those who are most at risk of developing the disease. The hope is that this can encourage scientists to, in the future, shed more light on exactly how the number of defensin genes leads to kidney disease.

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