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The study, which will involve 100 people with chronic kidney disease, will see people who are currently on dialysis and awaiting a kidney transplant undergoing an MRI heart scan before their transplant

The University of Birmingham is leading a new clinical trial to discover whether kidney transplants can reverse the heart and blood circulation damage that is often caused by chronic kidney disease.

The trial, funded by a £272,481 award from the charity British Heart Foundation (BHF), will assess if heart and circulatory conditions are reversed when patients with reduced kidney function receive a kidney transplant.

When kidneys become impaired, the heart also suffers as it has to increase its workload to pump blood around the body, therefore people living with chronic kidney disease are at a higher risk of death or morbidity due to heart and circulatory disease. Existing evidence has shown kidney disease patients needing dialysis treatment and those with abnormalities of calcium and phosphate control are at greater risk of conditions such as increased blood vessel stiffness, heart weight and scattered heart scarring.

Charles Ferro, Honorary Professor of Renal Medicine at the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Consultant Nephrologist at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, has received the funding from the BHF for the three-year clinical research project.

The study, which will involve 100 people with chronic kidney disease, will see people who are currently on dialysis and awaiting a kidney transplant undergoing an MRI heart scan before their transplant. They will then receive a follow-up test one year after they receive a transplant. The images of those patients will then be compared with those of patients who remain on dialysis over the same time period.

Scientists will then assess the detailed images in order to see if any heart abnormalities have been reversed by improved kidney function due to the transplant. Blood tests will also be analysed to see if any improvements in the heart are linked to better control of calcium and phosphate.

Professor Paulus Kirchhof, Director of the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, said: “This definitive study could pave the way in finding causes of heart and circulatory conditions connected to chronic kidney disease. It could also lead to future treatments to prevent the development of these potentially life-threatening conditions.

“Our ultimate goal is to improve the cardiovascular outcomes of the millions of patients living with chronic kidney disease and helping to prevent the needless deaths that can be caused by related heart and circulatory conditions.”

Dr Noel Faherty, Senior Research Advisor at the BHF, said: “Although the connection between heart and circulatory conditions and chronic kidney disease is well known, the mechanisms are less clear. This means there is some uncertainty over what measures should be implemented to reduce the risk of death and morbidity in patients with reduced kidney function.

“Funding this research at the University of Birmingham could provide us with answers and introduce new opportunities for treatments and preventions, which will ultimately save lives.

“This funding has only been made possible by the fantastic generosity of the public. We rely on their support so that we can drive forward research programmes in our mission to beat heartbreak forever and ensure that we keep hearts beating and blood flowing.”

The news comes as the University of Birmingham is to host part of the 41st edition of the Westfield Health British Transplant Games which will be held across the city from Thursday 2nd August to Sunday 5th August, 2018. The Games will shine a light on the research behind transplants, as well as the hard-work, dedication and talent of the doctors and nurses who bring hope to patients undergoing transplant surgery and their families.

For more information please contact:

  1. Emma McKinney, Communications Manager (Health Sciences), University of Birmingham, tel: +44 (0) 121 414 6681, or contact the press office out of hours on +44 (0) 7789 921 165.
  2. Lee Kettle from the BHF Media Team on 07741 908365.
  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 5,000 international students from over 150 countries.
  • The University of Birmingham’s Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences is focused around two key themes: vascular inflammation, thrombosis and angiogenesis, and clinical and integrative cardiovascular sciences. Major awards centre on the regulation of platelet and leukocyte responses in vascular diseases, and the pathogenesis of cardiac diseases particularly atrial fibrillation. With a British Heart Foundation (BHF) Chair and a number of senior BHF Fellows, this is a cluster of collaborative activity that champions interdisciplinary working through partnerships, such as the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Physical Sciences for Health integrated Centre for Doctoral Training and the NIHR Surgical Reconstruction and Microbiology Research Centre (SRMRC). The Institute is leading the recently awarded joint Universities of Birmingham-Nottingham research centre, the Centre for Membrane Proteins and Receptors (COMPARE), which is developing novel methods for visualising and studying membrane proteins with a particular focus on cardiovascular disease.
  • For over 50 years the British Heart Foundation has pioneered research that’s transformed the lives of people living with heart and circulatory conditions. Our work has been central to the discoveries of vital treatments that are changing the fight against heart disease. But so many people still need our help. From babies born with life-threatening heart problems to the many Mums, Dads and Grandparents who survive a heart attack and endure the daily battles of heart failure. Join our fight for every heartbeat in the UK. Every pound raised, minute of your time and donation to our shops will help make a difference to people’s lives. 
  • University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust runs the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, Birmingham Chest Clinic, Heartlands Hospital, Good Hope Hospital, Solihull Hospital and various community services across the region. The Trust has regional centres for trauma, burns, plastics, neurosciences, dermatology and cancer. It also has centres of excellence for vascular, bariatric and pathology services, as well as the treatment of MRSA and other infectious diseases. We also have expertise in HIV/AIDS, premature baby care, bone marrow transplants and thoracic surgery. UHB has the largest solid organ transplantation programme in Europe and runs Umbrella, the sexual health service for Birmingham and Solihull. It is also home to the West Midlands Adult Cystic Fibrosis Centre and a nationally-renowned weight management clinic and research centre. The Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham is a Major Trauma Centre treating the most severely injured casualties from across the region. The hospital’s single site 100-bed critical care unit is the largest in Europe. The Trust hosts the Institute of Translational Medicine (ITM) and leads the West Midlands Genomics Medicine Centre as part of the national 100,000 Genomes Project. UHB is also proud to host the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine (RCDM) at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham. The RCDM provides dedicated training for defence personnel and is a focus for medical research.