Birmingham Cardio-Renal Group research paper claims best of year honour

14 June 2017

UHB research, showing that small reductions in kidney function are associated with a long term increased risk of heart disease, has been recognised by the prominent journal in which it was originally published.

The American Heart Association (AHA) journal Hypertension featured the findings of Professor Jon Townend and his team in a published paper in February 2016 and their submission has now been chosen as the top clinical science paper of the year by the publication’s editors.

It has long been known that people with kidney disease are at increased risk of heart problems but, as kidney patients commonly have other risk factors, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, the direct effect of diminishing kidney function on the heart has been uncertain.

To look for a direct link, researchers tracked an extremely healthy group of people – living kidney donors – to see whether decreases in kidney function that occur after donation were associated with heart and blood vessel changes.

They compared 68 kidney donors with 56 control cases through the first year after surgery and found that there were indeed measurable indicators of heart disease risk in the donor group.

“This is evidence that reduction in kidney function itself leads directly to measurable adverse effects on the heart and blood vessels, even without other risk factors,” said Professor Townend. “More research is needed to know just what aspects of reduced kidney function are responsible for the effects.”

The UHB consultant cardiologist said he was ‘surprised and delighted’ that the team’s paper, ‘Cardiovascular Effects of Unilateral Nephrectomy in Living Kidney Donors’, had been acclaimed as the best of the year.

Co-authors include Professor Charlie Ferro, Dr Rick Steeds and Dr Nicky Edwards, with work being undertaken by Research Fellow, Dr Will Moody, who is now back in cardiology clinical training.

“It was a real team effort,” said Professor Townend. “All the senior clinical members of the Birmingham Cardio-Renal Group are full-time NHS clinicians and this award shows what can be achieved by NHS staff when supported by their trust to pursue their research interests.  It is the end result of a lot of hard work.”

The prize includes cash and travel costs to attend the Council on Hypertension Scientific Sessions 2017 in San Francisco in September, where the award will be presented.

The research was funded by the British Heart Foundation and QEHB Charities and supported by the QEHB-based NIHR/Wellcome Clinical Research Facility.

The patients and control subjects in the study are all being followed up at five years from donation, by current Research Fellow, Dr Anna Price, to see if the changes discovered at one year have progressed.

The group is also pursuing other projects looking into the relationship between kidney and heart disease with BHF funding and co-workers in the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences in Birmingham Medical School.