A young doctor from Birmingham Children’s Hospital has been awarded a prestigious grant from Action Medical Research to help her develop her career in medical research.
Talented Dr Sally Johnson, who grew up in Horsham in West Sussex, has been given a Research Training Fellowship of £131,633 by the charity to study one of the causes of devastating kidney failure in children.
Dr Johnson, who won many prizes during her medical training, is building on her research into a rare but destructive disease called atypical haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS), which causes irreversible kidney failure in children.
HUS damages the lining of blood vessels causing blood clots in the microscopic filters in the kidneys. Currently there is no cure; the kidney damage is permanent and transplants are sometimes unsuccessful as the disease may return in the new kidney – which means that sufferers of this disease may be confined to a life of dialysis.
The syndrome can be caused by an inherited fault in certain proteins that regulate the body’s immune system – particularly one called factor H, which normally protects the blood vessels in the kidney from the negative effects of the immune system.
Little is known about why or how defective factor H allows the lining of the blood vessels in the kidney to become damaged or why it is only the kidney that is targeted and not vessels in other parts of the body.
Dr Johnson is going to be using blood vessel cells and faulty factor H to understand how the lining cells of the blood vessels are damaged. She will also be comparing the blood vessels of the kidney with those from other parts of the body to see why the kidney is targeted with this disease.
Her work will be undertaken at the Medical School, University of Birmingham, under the guidance of Dr Mark Taylor, a specialist in childhood kidney disease, and Professor Caroline Savage, an internationally renowned researcher into immune disorders affecting the kidney.
Dr Johnson said, “I am proud that Action Medical Research has chosen to highlight the importance of my work with this award.
“The charity is renowned within the medical profession for supporting only the very best in research – so I feel hugely honoured to be alongside some of the best known, cutting edge research teams.
“I am glad that Action Medical Research has recognised that this is a tremendously important area of research. For many children with this condition life is dominated by dialysis, harsh dietary restrictions and frequent hospital stays.
“This award means that I can build on my research work and hopefully make some real steps towards finding a treatment for HUS and making a difference to the lives of sufferers and their families.”
Chief Executive of Action Medical Research, Simon Moore added, “At Action Medical Research we seek to fund the very best in research. Our Research Training Fellowships go to the brightest and most talented medical professionals early in their research careers.
“These are the people who have a tremendous future in medicine and we hope they will be making ground-breaking advances that will have a positive impact on all our lives.”
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