Recent reports have shown that kidney disease is on the rise. According to The Kidney Foundation of Canada, an estimated 1.9 million Canadians have some form of chronic kidney disease. In many cases, it progresses gradually over the course of many years and has few, if any, symptoms. Because of this, ongoing research, early diagnosis and treatment are key to managing the disease.
For over 14 years, Dr. Anthony Jevnikar, a clinical and basic science researcher at Lawson Health Research Institute and Robarts Research Institute, has made significant contributions in the areas of kidney injury and immunotherapy. He says the drive to continue his research endeavours comes from knowing that the current choices given to patients are far from perfect. His primary research interest lies in understanding the molecular mechanisms of transplant injury – a principal cause of premature failure of kidney transplants. Following transplantation, the kidney’s response to stress and inflammation includes the production of “survival proteins” within kidney cells, which regulate the extent and consequence of injury. Dr. Jevnikar’s findings reveal that by increasing the transplanted kidney’s ability to resist injury and promote normal repair processes, it may be possible to improve the function and survival of kidney transplants without increasing immunosuppression, which is often associated with added risks and side effects in transplant patients.
Dr. Jevnikar has also pioneered the development of novel biopharmaceutical drug production and delivery systems for use in the treatment of diabetes as well as transplant rejection. He and his team, which includes plant molecular scientists, have created genetically altered plants that express human proteins, which could not be produced in clinical quantities by any previous technology. Remarkably, these plants can prevent harmful immune responses when eaten and it is hoped that clinical testing to prevent Type I diabetes will begin in the near future.
In recognition of Dr. Jevnikar’s contributions, The Kidney Foundation of Canada awarded Dr. Jevnikar its prestigious 2005 Medal for Research Excellence. “It is an honour to be recognized for this research, but it is a team effort that makes us successful,” said Dr. Jevnikar. “The partnerships we have developed between institutions here in London enable us to not only explore new ideas in the laboratory but also to translate our discoveries to patient care. And that will always be the primary motivation for our research.”
Dr. Jevnikar is also Director of Transplantation Nephrology at London Health Sciences Centre and Professor of Medicine, Immunology and Microbioloy at The University of Ontario’s Schulich School of Medicine.