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MicroRNA Detection and Analysis Group

MicroRNA Detection and Analysis Group

The challenge


Many of the widely used diagnostic tests to identify various forms of kidney disease involve somewhat invasive testing processes such as a blood test and even a biopsy. This research group in WKRU is developing new ways to look for, and then identify earlier, various signs of kidney disease or potentially serious kidney problems.


The research


There are two main arms to this research. Developing ways in the laboratory to increase visibility of the signs and signals of kidney disease and then develop new non-invasive mechanisms to test for these signs in the clinical setting.


The team at the WKRU are analysing microRNAs to develop new ‘biosensors’ - which is a way of measuring the severity of a particular disease – to test people’s urine.  There are many strands to this important research and individual projects focus on first identifying the signals most associated with kidney diseases, and then, developing new non-invasive ‘dip-stick’ sensors to detect these signals in the clinic.  



The results


The research thus far has been able to show various ways to enhance the signs of kidney disease in the laboratory and has developed successful prototype sensors to test for these in the clinic

For example:

The group have shown that the concentrations of three kinds of a recently-discovered family of molecules called microRNAs change in the urine during Diabetic Kidney Disease (DKD). They are currently trying to develop a sensor to find these molecules in a non-invasive way to allow i) early DKD diagnosis and ii) prediction of disease progression over time.


This sensor is a new, highly sensitive and specific, straightforward sensor that uses simple electrical measurements and voltage/current/charge relationships to determine the number of a particular type of microRNA in healthy urine samples. This so called “electrochemical” data has been compared to current laboratory based analysis methods and has so far proven to produce equivalent results albeit with increased sensitivity. Currently, the group is attempting to use this procedure to compare urinary microRNAs in healthy individuals and kidney disease patients to prove its diagnostic ability. This is being done using disposable base electrodes produced through a collaboration with SunChemical, an industrial sponsor, to end up with a sensor that can be used throughout the clinic as a first indicative diagnostic test for kidney disease.


The impact


Kidney disease and complications are detected earlier improving survival rates.

People with kidney disease are less exposed to invasive tests improving quality of life.


People with kidney disease spend less time at hospital and are able to return to active life more quickly.


More research partnerships with industry resulting in better value for money and quicker implementation of research findings for patient benefit.


Read more about the recent research resulting from this group below and on the projects page. 

1. https://www.mediwales.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/TimBowen-MediWales-BIVDA_For_Tess.pdf

2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5614097/

3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4791477/

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