Kidney diseases affects approximately one in every ten individuals globally and Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is predicted to become the 5th leading cause of death worldwide. The main causes for CKD include diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as viral infection and immune system diseases. Today, therapeutic options offered to patients are still limited to renal replacement therapies such as dialysis or, in extreme cases, transplantation and there is a large need for methods that can accelerate development of new drugs.
The BIRDIE consortium consists of experienced researchers from European academic institutions and innovative SMEs. The team has highly complementary expertise in translational biology, bioprinting and additive manufacturing, microfluidics, single-cell systems, and organ-on-chip models
On the world kidney day, we took the opportunity to speak to Dr. Carlos Mota and Dr. Franck Halary, two of the leading researchers in the BIRDIE consortium, to learn more about the work that they do and how the BIRDIE project can lead to better kidney health.
What do you see as the most important outcome for the BIRDIE project?
We see several outcomes for BIRDIE in the coming months or years like a better understanding of kidney rejection events and the BKPyV infection occurring in the post-transplant kidney or the release of a human kidney tubulo-interstitium model, applicable to basic and translational research, or pre-clinical tests. But more than this, at half-distance of the project, we foresee fruitful collaborations beyond BIRDIE, between partners due to a highly stimulating synergy and enthusiasm shared by private partners and academia from four different European countries.
How can BIRDIE benefit people who are living with kidney diseases?
The overall objective of BIRDIE is to build a complex model of human renal tubule-on-chip recapitulating tubular functions. The release of a fully characterized and clinically relevant model of BKPyV infection in vitro will pave the way to new specific antivirals. The organoid technology enables personalized medicine approaches in BIRDIE either using patients own cells or CRISPR-edited cells lines to mimic mutations responsible for renal genetic diseases. This opens avenues for disease modelling and screening for relevant cures.