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UAE University Scientists Hope to Roll Out New Kidney Disease Test

March 5, 2017 | The National UAE

AL AIN // Scientists at UAE University hope to introduce a new way of detecting kidney disease to hospitals and clinics.

The test, which checks how well a patient’s kidneys filter the drug iothalamate, is an “inexpensive and reliable” way to spot the disease at an early stage, says Dr Iltaf Shah, an assistant professor of biochemistry.

It is estimated that more than 2,000 people have chronic kidney disease in the UAE, with about 250 cases diagnosed each year.

“If implemented in hospitals, this test could be a very important first line of defence and could add to existing tests to fight against chronic kidney disease,” said Dr Shah.

“It will enable health authorities to quickly and accurately assess kidney function and determine the health of a patient’s kidneys.”

The test was tried on 20 volunteer patients in a two-year development process. They were given iothalamate to check their glomerular filtration rate – the rate fluid is filtered through the kidney.

Each hour for four hours the concentration of the drug in their blood and urine was measured. The kidneys’ ability to clear iothalamate from the blood and urine is a useful indicator of their function.

When compared with the current isotopic test, which involves potentially harmful radioactive substances, the new method “is more accurate, reliable, non-toxic, quick and cheaper”, said Salman Ashraf, professor of biochemistry and a member of the UAEU research team.

Another commonly used test involves measuring the level of creatinine in the blood plasma. But this has drawbacks because factors such as age, gender, ethnicity and muscle bulk influence the concentration of creatinine.

If not detected early, kidney malfunction can lead to a lifetime of hospital care. But when discovered early, many conditions can be cured.

“Certain types of acute kidney diseases can be treated with medication and they can be cured if diagnosed at the onset,” Prof Ashraf said.

“If patients develop end-stage kidney failure, the loss of 85 to 95 per cent of kidney function, then weekly dialysis for a lifetime is needed. The average life expectancy on dialysis is about 10 years.

“Another option is a kidney transplant from a donor. So knowing about the disease in the early stage will help doctors to combat the problem at the outset, before it gets any worse.”

Dialysis can have a huge effect on a patient’s life. Last week, The National reported on the growing number of kidney patients who lost their jobs and were eventually deported because dialysis took up too much time.

People with chronic kidney disease often have to make weekly trips to the hospital.

Prof Ashraf hopes his team can use their research for the benefit of patients.

“One of the biggest challenges we have is how to transfer this test to the clinics and labs,” Prof Ashraf said.

“For that, we have to recruit kidney patients with the help of local hospitals and doctors, and to apply this test and compare our results with the currently used approaches, as well as to compare the results obtained with healthy volunteers with normal kidney function.

“I think the main shortcoming we have is to overcome the resistance from lab personnel and doctors to explore the possibility of using this new test for kidney function.”