There is exciting new research being done in Manchester by Dr Michael Randles and Sophie Collinson.
A two year project funded by Kidney Research UK
Dr Michael Randles, 25
I studied biochemistry at the University of Bristol and have recently been awarded a PhD in medicine from the University of Manchester. I am now employed as a scientist at the university of Manchester where I investigate the kidney in Alport syndrome.
Sophie Collinson, 24
I am a medical student at The University of Manchester and I am currently taking a year out of my medical degree to do a Masters of Research. I have had a very keen interest in the kidneys for a few years and
this year allows me to study them in more detail.
What causes Alport syndrome?
Every human has a unique genetic sequence which contains the information required to produce the proteins that make up the human body. Variations in this genetic sequence can prevent the body from producing a protein called type IV collagen and this causes Alport syndrome.
What is type IV collagen and why is it important?
Type IV collagen is an extracellular matrix protein. In much the same way as a spider creates a web on which to live, cells produce extracellular matrix and attach onto it. Cells and extracellular matrix proteins together make up the tissues of the human body. In the kidney tiny filters operate to remove waste products from the circulation. The extracellular matrix part of these kidney filters contains type IV collagen.
How can we better understand and treat Alport syndrome?
The impact of loss of type IV collagen on the extracellular matrix within kidney filters is not fully understood. Using highly sensitive analytical techniques, such as mass spectrometry, we can find out how the extracellular matrix part of kidney filters is changed during Alport syndrome and therefore identify new therapeutic targets.
My project concentrates on new ways to visualise the kidney filtration barrier in Alport syndrome. I am using a new imaging technique to create 3D models of the filtration barrier and podocytes. Podocytes are cells that attach to the filtration barrier with special foot processes, similar to the tentacles of an octopus. We know that under normal circumstances it is the podocytes that produce type IV collagen and therefore they have a role in the development of Alport syndrome. We hope that by seeing the changes that occur in Alport syndrome in more detail we can improve our understanding of this disease.