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Thousands of oxfordshire residents will help pioneer new ways to tackle kidney disease
Dr Nathan Hill, Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford

Thousands of Oxfordshire residents are set to take part in a major 10-year study to improve treatment of Chronic Kidney Disease.

The Oxford Renal Study (OxRen) will recruit 6,000 people, aged 60 and over, to better understand the condition estimated to affect about one in 10 people.

Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is a long term condition where the kidneys do not function properly. It becomes worse over time and is linked to an increased risk of heart disease. In some cases it can lead to complete kidney failure, leaving sufferers dependent on dialysis or requiring a kidney transplant.

Despite being recognised as a major health issue, CKD often goes undiagnosed as early stage symptoms are difficult to detect. It is not known how many people in the UK suffer from it.

Researchers hope increased understanding will lead to new ways of preventing, diagnosing and treating CKD.

The OxRen study is supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Oxford Biomedical Research Centre – a partnership between Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust and the University of Oxford.

Dr Nathan Hill, who is part of the study team at the University’s Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, said: “The OxRen study will answer three major questions, how many people have CKD, how many people will develop it and how those people who have it progress.

“If we can build a detailed picture of the condition we can establish the best way to detect and diagnose it at an early stage, we can identify those sufferers at the highest risk of having heart problems or progressing to kidney failure in the future and, ultimately, develop ways to reduce those risks.”

The 6,000 patients will be representative of the UK population and participants will be recruited by 11 GP practices across the Thames Valley region. Dr Hill said the study will focus on men and women aged 60 or over as from this age onwards development of CKD is more likely.

All 6,000 participants will be tested for CKD and those who have the disease will be monitored on an annual basis for 10 years to build an accurate picture of how the condition progresses.  Detailed data will be gathered on each participant including age, medical and family history, education, and lifestyle.

Those without the disease will be retested after 12 months to calculate the number of new cases of CKD being developed each year.

“One group we are particularly interested in are those who deteriorate really, really quickly, those with what we term as rapid renal decline. These are the people who are likely to progress to kidney failure. We want to be able to pick that up earlier and find out why they deteriorate so quickly,” said Dr Hill.

“Our study group will reflect the UK population based on the Government’s own deprivation scores for each neighbourhood.

“According to the best available data, it seems there is a lower prevalence of CKD in more affluent areas and a higher prevalence in more deprived areas. We are not sure why, it could be linked to factors such as lifestyle, obesity or smoking. That is why this work needs to be done.”

“In addition to the increased risk of cardiovascular disease, having CKD is a predictor of increased risk of hospitalisation and of poor quality of life.”

The research team has also built in an ability to retrospectively test any new theories or factors that may come to light during the 10 year study.

“We might not know all the questions to ask at this stage. However, we are  freezing the blood and urine samples we take which means if we do come up with a new question we can effectively roll back time to the beginning of the study and retest the samples,” said Dr Hill.

Find out more about OxRen.

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