LifeCycle Foundation boosts Kidney Research programme at University of Malta
LifeCycle (Malta) Foundation donated €25,000 to the University’s Research, Innovation and Development Trust (RIDT) to further the specialised medical programme in kidney research at the University of Malta. The money was initially received by LifeCycle as part of the 2018 title sponsorship by Foster Clark Products Ltd.
LifeCycle founder Alan Curry, in the presence of Foster Clark’s Brand manager – Africa Adrian Bonello, presented the money to the University rector and Research Trust (RIDT) chairman Professor Alfred Vella. In the past four years LifeCycle Foundation has donated a total of €120,000 towards the kidney research project.
Curry said: “As part of the LifeCycle Foundation’s mission, we started supporting medical research in kidney disease in 2014. For the past 19 years, we have been raising money through our yearly LifeCycle Challenge to help and provide better care for patients suffering from kidney disease. This year we are pledg- ing another sum of €25,000, thanks to Foster Clark, to further the LifeCycle research programme.”
Bonello noted that Foster Clark is particularly pleased that their company is supporting the kidney research programme at the University of Malta. He said: “When LifeCycle Foundation approached us with their idea, we immediately realised that this will result in a tangible financial support which we have offered for two consecutive years. We augur that the on-going kidney research will be of benefit to future generations.”
Prof. Alex Felice together with a team of scientists, namely lead researcher Dr Valerie Said Conti and Esther Zammit are currently investigating what causes children to be born with congenital anomalies of the kidney and urinary tract (CAKUT). These anomalies, which arise from defects in kidney development before birth and are the commonest cause of end-stage kidney disease in children, are thought to result from interplay between genetic factors and environmental hits which influence the developmental pathways.
The researchers have established a high-quality kidney disease biobank at the University of Malta where biological samples from families of children with CAKUT are now stored. They have looked at potential risk factors during pregnancy and have performed ultrasound studies on the first-degree relatives. It was determined that three of 26 (11.5%) individuals had a renal anomaly which compares well with a family history of 10% reported in the literature.
Using Next Generation Sequencing, a modern technology, which allows the human genome to be sequenced rapidly and in great detail, the researchers at UM have identified a number of variations in the genomes which play a part in development. Since CAKUT is classified as a rare disease and the number of individuals studied by any research group is small, the data will contribute to the larger pool with the aim to develop preventive measures and individualised therapy in the future.
Professor Felice said: “We shall be able to look into fundamental physiological mechanisms of kidney development and explore in greater depth the effect of these and perhaps other gene variations in children and adults. The new kidney biobank gives us and the Maltese families the opportunity to join large research programmes with collaborators from other countries.”
Professor Vella said: “We are grateful for the LifeCycle Foundation that has helped us to prepare the essential groundwork for renal research in Malta. With today’s donation, we shall be able to sustain our investment in furthering kidney disease research.”
Prof. Alfred Vella receiving the donation from Adrian Bonello in the presence of Alan Curry. From left: LifeCycle chairperson Dr Shirley Cefai, RIDT’s CEO Wilfred Kenely and Prof. Alex Felice