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Keeping Kidneys Alive (in a lab?!)

by YPU Admin on February 28, 2020, Comments. Tags: biology medicine health, BMH, doctor, intercalation, kidneys, medicine, PhD, and tissue engineering

Introduction

My name is Sirat Lodhi and I am a medical student at the University of Manchester. After completing four years of medical school, I realised I wanted to take a break from Medicine to study a new degree. This is known as intercalation. I decided to pursue a Master of Research degree in Tissue Engineering for Regenerative Medicine. Following this year, I hope to complete my final year of Medicine so that I can graduate as a doctor.

Many medical students complete an intercalated degree so that they can study a new subject which they may not have had the opportunity (or time!) to study at medical school. As a medical student, I especially enjoyed the small research projects I completed. However, I did not consider intercalating until a supervisor suggested that a research degree may be for me! Now, I am hoping to develop my research skills because I am certain that I would like to pursue an academic career. I am interested in learning how to repair and replace parts of the body that have been damaged by trauma or disease. My research is in the field of kidney transplant surgery. 

In Depth...

WHAT HAPPENS TO THE DONOR KIDNEY?

Good kidney function is important because the kidneys filter our blood so that toxic waste can be removed from the body. Also, the kidneys make urine. Unfortunately, there are over 60,000 people in the UK who are suffering from kidney failure. These individuals need a kidney transplant to allow them to survive - this is when someone donates their kidney to the patient. Once the kidney has been removed from the body of the donor, it is stored in ice. This is done because if the kidney is kept in a good environment, it will work better in the person who receives it. 


However, keeping the kidney in a cold environment is damaging. Instead, it may be better to connect the kidney to a machine so that warm blood can flow through it. This means the kidney can work just like it would in the warm body. Although we know that cold storage can be damaging for donor organs, this technique is still used in the NHS. Fortunately, there is increasing research looking at developing techniques to keep organs alive in warm conditions.

WHAT DOES MY RESEARCH FOCUS ON?

Overtime, blood breaks down and damages the donor kidney. To prevent this from happening, a ‘fake’ blood has been developed. My research tests whether a warm solution of ‘fake’ blood can be pumped through pig kidneys without causing damage. If the ‘fake’ blood is found to be safe, it could be used to make donor kidneys work better in the new body.  Most importantly, kidneys which are not good enough to be donated could be improved using this technique so that more people can receive a life-saving kidney transplant. 


This is a very exciting time to be conducting transplant research because the organ donation law is changing from spring 2020. England will move to an ‘opt out’ organ donation system. This means that most adults will be considered as being potential organ donors when they die. It is hoped that this will increase the number of organs transplanted. This is very important because there is a shortage in donor organs. For example, every year, around 60% of people on the kidney transplant waiting list are not offered a kidney so they must continue waiting. 

If you would to learn more about anything I have discussed in this blog, please visit the links below!

Going Further

An article about the transplant research lab that I am working in can be found at:

If you are interested in studying Medicine, this is a good website to look at:

If you are interested in becoming a scientist, this is a good website to look at:

For more information about the NHS organ donation scheme, please look at: