Life­Cy­cle Foun­da­tion boosts Kid­ney Re­search pro­gramme at Univer­sity of Malta

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - LIFESTYLE & CULTURE -

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

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