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NUH clinicians lead new research into kidney and heart diseases

Dr Shahnaz Jamil-Copley

Children and young adults who need kidney transplants and patients living with potentially life-threatening heart disorders will benefit from innovative new clinical research which will be carried out at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH), thanks to prestigious national funding grants.

Consultant kidney specialist Dr Jon Jin Kim and consultant cardiologist Dr Shahnaz Jamil-Copley (pictured) are among an exclusive group of doctors nationally to receive a Clinical Academic Research Partnerships (CARP) grant award from the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the NIHR (National Institute for Health Research). 

The latest success for NUH comes just two years after a hat-trick of CARP award wins for other consultants working for the Trust. CARP is an initiative to encourage more NHS clinicians to take part in clinical research projects that will benefit patients and to support consultants early in their research careers.

Dr JJ Kim, who is based at Nottingham Children’s Hospital, will be partnering with leading kidney transplant researcher Mr Vasilis Kosmoliaptsis - an NIHR funded Honorary Consultant Transplant Surgeon based at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge - on a research project to enable better matching of organs for children who need a kidney transplant.

Since its inception, kidney transplant research has enabled hundreds of thousands of patients with end stage kidney failure to receive a suitable donor organ, transforming and saving lives. 

This was in part due to better understanding of HLA (human leucocyte antigen, which allows the body to differentiate between itself and non-self), improved techniques to detect HLA antibodies, and improvements in immunosuppression. 

However, this century progress in this area of medicine has been slow and the average kidney transplant only lasts a patient between 12 and 15 years. As an example, a child transplanted at five years of age will need two to three transplants in their lifetime. 

Now thanks to the CARP award, Dr Kim and Mr Kosmoliaptsis will be assessing the effectiveness of molecular HLA matching in children and young adults with kidney transplants. Molecular matching uses experimentally-verified algorithms to predict the risks of rejection and kidney transplant deterioration.

Dr Kim said: “We aim to develop a molecular score which can be used in the national kidney allocation scheme to find children kidneys which are better matched and longer lasting.

“Better matched kidney transplants will potentially enable children to take less medication and therefore have less side effects – this could offer a breakthrough in kidney transplants for this age group, which would be very much welcomed by the patients themselves, and their families.”

Meanwhile, Consultant Cardiologist Dr Jamil-Copley said: “I am delighted to have been awarded this MRC CARP grant, which recognises the importance of innovation in this field of Cardiology, and supports me in developing a ventricular scar model of patients’ hearts using AI (Artificial Intelligence).” 

Sudden cardiac death accounts for 100,000 deaths a year, with the most common cause being ischaemic heart disease. Three quarters of all cases are due to scarring from a previous heart attack, which can lead to heart rhythm disorders.

Dr Jamil-Copley, who is based at City Hospital, said: “The model will use data from cardiac MRI scans with scar. These will be combined with the innovative application of computers to produce a 3D model of a patient’s heart allowing us to explore the complexity of scar not appreciable to the human eye.

“Ultimately, the model aims to display the location and complexity of the scar to guide an operator to the critical areas which require treatment in the Cardiac electrophysiology laboratory. 

“This provides precision treatment leading to better patient outcomes, including a reduction in patients’ ventricular arrhythmias – life-threatening heart rhythms, allowing improved quality of life for patients.”

Professor Stephen Ryder, Clinical Director of Research & Innovation at Nottingham University Hospitals, said:

 

“Our success in the latest round of CARP Award funding is great news for our researchers and the patients who will benefit from these two cutting-edge research studies.

 

“These are two new areas of NUH research to benefit from CARP funding and the consultants leading these research programmes in both renal and cardiology have bold plans for their projects.

 

“Once again, our two wins in the latest round of this national funding competition demonstrates the depth and breadth of our research programmes at Nottingham University Hospitals.”

He added: “We know the importance of supporting clinicians at every stage of their careers to take part in research. The new CARP funding for 2020-21 is an excellent opportunity for front-line staff to bring their skills and knowledge to clinical research – we’re excited to see what they can achieve.”

 

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