Renal diseases shall be diagnosed earlier and treated more successfully in the future. Towards this aim, researchers from nine European countries*, coordinated by the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch, Germany, have been working for the past four-and-a half years to create a three-dimensional virtual "Kidney Atlas". It incorporates the latest research findings on the development and diseases of the kidney. The Kidney Atlas was part of the European Renal Genome Project (EuReGene), which the European Union (EU) funded with more than 10 million euros. At the conclusion of the project, the Kidney Atlas was presented at MDC during a two-day symposium from May 15-16, 2009, which was attended by approximately 100 researchers.
In Europe, about 4.5 million people suffer from renal disease. The elderly are disproportionately affected, as the disease frequently develops as a consequence of hypertension and diabetes. However, renal disease is a condition that also affects children, who are often born with congenital renal anomalies.
In particular, the increase in the incidence of type 2 diabetes has caused a rise in the number of renal patients. Loss of kidney function is among the most common causes of death in the Western world. About 20 percent of affected patients die from the disease each year.
Information for the general public
While the primary aim of the Kidney Atlas is to map genes that play a key role in renal diseases, it also contains other data, for example on anatomy. Directed towards both basic researchers and clinicians, the Kidney Atlas also contains information for the general public.
The Atlas is based upon various Genome Projects. The scientists involved in creating the Atlas were pathologists, developmental and molecular biologists as well as geneticists from 14 research groups from non-university institutions, universities and six university clinics.
According to the project coordinator, Professor Thomas Willnow (MDC), the Kidney Atlas will also be of great significance for the research of metabolic disorders which lead to kidney damage such as diabetes.
EUNEFRON follow-up project – renal diseases in children
The Kidney Atlas will now be continued with the EUNEFRON project, which focuses on renal diseases in childhood.
The project coordinator is Professor Olivier Devuyst of the Université catholique de Louvain Medical School, Brussels, Belgium. The project manager, as with the Kidney Atlas, is Dr. Iwan Meij of MDC.
* Belgium, Denmark, Germany, England, Finland, France, Italy, Poland, Switzerland
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