Mystery of unexplained kidney disease revealed to patients

In a significant finding, researchers at Newcastle University have discovered a new technique for assessing genomic data, which will eventually lead to a diagnosis for people suffering from renal failure that is yet undiagnosed.

April 7th, 2024: Newcastle University researchers have made a ground-breaking finding that has illuminated the mysterious causes of renal illnesses that remain unexplained. The work reveals a novel mechanism behind these illnesses and offers promise for improved diagnostics and treatments. It was published in the esteemed journal Genetics in Medicine Open. Medical practitioners have long been baffled by kidney disorders that go undiagnosed, giving patients few therapeutic options and frequently resulting in a steady deterioration in kidney function. Nonetheless, a noteworthy advancement has been achieved by Newcastle University’s Deputy Dean of Biosciences, Professor John Sayer.

After a thorough examination of tissue samples from afflicted individuals, the researchers discovered a genetic mutation that was previously unknown and associated with the emergence of renal disorders that are not understood. This mutation causes dysfunction and disease by interfering with an essential biological process that keeps the kidneys healthy. Kidney failure can have many causes, and if ignored, can be fatal. However, patients frequently do not receive a clear diagnosis, which can make it difficult to determine the best course of action. According to scientists, they have been able to categorize this as renal failure due to NPHP1 because they have now located the missing gene and discovered mutations within it.

Professor John Sayer states, “This finding represents a turning point in our understanding of kidney diseases that go undiagnosed. To provide the greatest results for our patients, we can now accurately diagnose some of them, enabling us to customize their monitoring, therapy, and investigative plans. We are now more qualified to identify and treat those who are impacted by these disorders, thereby averting additional kidney damage and enhancing patient outcomes, thanks to the discovery of their genetic foundation.”

Ten additional UK patients with unexplained deafness and blindness who had previously been given no genetic explanation for their condition were also given new genetic diagnoses using the novel method, which involved analysing genomic data from 11,754 cases. Thanks to Professor Sayer’s contribution to the Genomics England 100,000 Genomes project, which is mostly financed by Kidney Research UK and the Northern Counties Kidney Research Fund, the work was made feasible. Working with patient-derived cell lines, the Newcastle specialists are now able to investigate the illness process in greater depth and explore possible outcomes.

This work is a perfect example of the creative and cooperative research that Newcastle University is doing. Through the integration of disciplinary knowledge, scientists are achieving significant progress in comprehending and resolving intricate health issues. The study team’s current priorities include looking at possible therapeutic interventions and delving deeper into the molecular mechanisms underlying the discovered genetic abnormality. Their ultimate objective is to provide patients with real advantages from these discoveries, giving them hope for better health and a higher standard of living.

Contribution from patients

Professor John Sayer added, “We were aware that many of our unresolved cases involved genetic disorders, and this new strategy allows us to find a conclusive solution in these circumstances. Our goal is to deliver a correct diagnosis for many more families in the future. We are now able to accurately diagnose many more renal disease-affected families genetically. In order to fully understand kidney failure, it is always important to look into its underlying causes, as this work serves as a reminder. The patient and other family members, particularly those who hope to give a kidney to a loved one, will be greatly affected if a genetic cause of renal failure is identified.”

Newcastle Health Innovation Partners (NHIP) includes both Newcastle Hospitals and Newcastle University. As one of the UK’s eight esteemed Academic Health Science Centres (AHSCs), NHIP brings together collaborators to provide superior patient care, health education, and research.

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