New strategies to diagnose and treat kidney disease

- Research

11 March is World Kidney Day and this year it is focussing on quality of life for people living with kidney disease. Currently 10% of the world population is affected by chronic renal disease (CRD) and more than 2 million people receive dialysis or kidney transplants worldwide. At the Germans Trias i Pujol Research Institute (IGTP) the Kidney Disease Group and the Innovation in Vesicles and Cells for Application in Therapy (REMAR-IVECAT) led by Francesc Borràs is working on improving diagnosis and treatments for these diseases. The group studies biomarkers for non-invasive monitoring of the conditions in patients and they are also study the application of advanced therapies. In fact they are pioneers in the use of extracellular vesicles as a therapeutic tool for kidney disease.

As in other families of diseases, correct diagnosis is key to making progress with treatments and predicting the prognosis for possible complications. The IGTP group is researching the use of less invasive biomarkers to detect kidney disease. Currently you need a biopsy to detect these illnesses and this is the standard diagnostic method for most diseases that effect the kidneys. It is an invasive method, it is not possible to repeat it too often and when it is done; it often discovers irreversible kidney damage. To resolve this, the group is working on the identification of biological markers in urine, that is to say substances that can be found in patients' urine, a non-invasive method of taking samples that is also cheaper, simpler to carry out and very accurate. Also, the fact that it is not invasive means it can be repeated frequently, which in turn allows for better monitoring and quality of life for patients living with kidney disease.

The other main line of research of the group is on advanced therapies; these are therapies not based on chemical or pharmacological principals. In this case the group is developing new therapeutic tools based on extracellular vesicles, which can be used to treat patients and cause fewer side effects. They are therapies that represent an important change in quality of life for patients and could guarantee longer lasting therapeutic effects. "Most kidney pathologies have treatments and we know the side effects. One of the great challenges is to have new tools for the clinical management of patients, which allow patients to live better despite their illness, as well as finding better alternatives to the current treatments," explains Borràs.