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Kidneys are bean shaped organs, each about the size of a fist. They are located just above waist level in your back, either side of your spine.

Your kidneys have several important functions. They produce urine; filter waste from your blood; balance your body fluids; and adjust levels of minerals and other chemicals so that your body can work properly.

After you eat or drink anything, your body takes all the nutrients it needs. What is left is waste. Some of this waste (excess water and small particles) ends up in the blood and needs to be removed. This is where the kidneys come in.

WHEN YOUR KIDNEYS WORK RIGHT

Think of each kidney as a filter. This filter is made up of between 1 and 1.3 million nephrons. Each nephron is made up of a glomerulus and tubules.

It is in the glomerulus that the excess water and small waste particles are filtered from the blood (glomerular filtration). This filtered waste then passes to the tubules where it goes through several processes and ends up as urine.

Healthy kidneys work 24 hours a day 7 days a week to clean the blood. Each day 50 gallons of blood are filtered through the kidneys.

Kidneys will continue performing until they have lost 75-80% of their function, often with no noticeable symptoms.

WHY DO KIDNEYS STOP WORKING

There are several causes of chronic kidney disease. The two major causes are first, diabetes and second, high blood pressure.

In diabetes, excess sugar in the blood can damage the glomerulus. In high blood pressure the ’pressure’ can do the same thing. A damaged glomerulus becomes leaky and lets too much escape. It filters out not only the excess water and the waste, but also an excess of albumin protein, a nutrient that normally stays in the blood. The filtered waste and excess albumin protein then move on to the tubules to be processed into urine. The problem here is that the tubules are unused to this excess of albumin protein, and we believe that the reaction to the excess causes the cells in the tubules (tubular cells) to produce substances and/or signals which create and promote the scarring that leads to chronic kidney disease.

WHAT WE ARE DOING

Our lab based research is focused on understanding the development of kidney disease and established renal failure in the hope of identifying new targets for drug therapy to improve the quality of life for renal patients.

Our nurse-led research is focused on developing an innovative patient-centred education program to help patients in the fight against early kidney disease.

Please check out our Lab research and Diagnostic research and Primary care research pages for more information.