Main research topic:
The nephrology department aims to perform clinically relevant and translational research. As such, different topics have been worked on such as drug-induced renal magnesium loss, renal transplantation, chronic kidney failure and its relation to cardiovascular diseases.
There is solid experience in computer-based renal morphometry; Prof dr. J.-L. Bosmans as well as dr. Annemie Woestenburg used this technique in their research on transplant vasculopathy ultimately leading to their PhD. This research revealed that donor-related vasculopathy, at the time of transplantation, has a persistent significant impact on the subsequent graft function, demonstrating the importance of adequate blood pressure monitoring of transplant patients. Currently, there is collaboration with another Flemish university to share the experience in computer-based blood vessel measurements.
Drug-induced renal magnesium loss
We focused on the mechanisms of drug-induced renal magnesium loss. We were able to demonstrate that EGF is a key player in renal magnesium handling in vivo and that cyclosporine and cisplatin downregulate the renal EGF production, thereby disturbing renal magnesium reabsorption. This knowledge is very useful for future research and also companies developing new therapeutic agents may use this information to study the effect of new molecules on renal magnesium handling and it also resulted in a PhD (Kristien Ledeganck).
Chronic kidney failure (CKD)
Other current research projects focus on specific and highly relevant clinical aspects of kidney disease and profit from collaborations with other research groups. As cardiovascular diseases remain the main cause of morbidity and mortality in patients with CKD, there is an urgent need for effective preventive strategies. A current joint project with the Laboratory of Cardiology studies the mechanisms of endothelial dysfunction and its possible reversibility by exercise training. A PhD on this topic is rounding up in 2014 (Amaryllis Van Craenenbroeck).
Besides CMV infection remains a major problem in renal transplant recipients. Therefore the use of prophylactic vaccination with autologous dendritic cells is investigated. Given the encouraging results in a pilot study with healthy volunteers, a phase I/II pilot clinical trial in patients awaiting kidney transplantation is currently being initiated (collaboration with the Laboratory of Experimental Hematology, Vaxinfectio) and is part of an ongoing PhD (Rachel Hellemans).
Finally, we just initiated a collaboration with prof dr. Jurgen Del-Favero investigating non-invasive detection methods for renal transplant rejection. Currently, transplant rejection is diagnosed based on the histological evaluation of biopsies, an invasive and poorly sensitive method. There is thus need for non-invasive detection and prediction methods of transplant rejection, which we aim to detect in this project based on miR technology (PhD started September 2014).