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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University December 15, 2003 | Vol. 33 No. 15
Researcher Awarded $3 Million Grant to Study Kidney Disease in Children

By Jessica Collins
Johns Hopkins Medicine

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has awarded Susan L. Furth, a pediatric nephrologist at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center, a $3 million five-year grant to study chronic kidney disease in children.

The multicenter study will focus on identifying and understanding the risk factors that lead to rapid progression of kidney disease and, in some cases, kidney failure. National enrollment of 600 children with moderate to severe kidney disease will begin in the late spring of 2004.

This cooperative effort will be led by Furth, along with Bradley Warady, of the Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., and Alvaro Munoz, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

"There have been no known large-scale prospective studies of pediatric chronic kidney disease, which is a 'silent' or asymptomatic disease, meaning some children may not be diagnosed until the disease has advanced to the point of kidney failure," said Furth, who will serve as the primary Hopkins investigator.

"We hope that by defining and understanding risk factors that lead to faster progression of the disease we can intervene early to slow or prevent kidney failure further down the road," she said.

Furth and her team will focus on several known adverse effects of chronic kidney disease, or CKD, including:

Cardiovascular disease: Children with CKD have a higher incidence of hypertension as their damaged kidneys are unable to produce the hormone renin, which regulates blood pressure; this may make these children more susceptible to heart disease.

Growth failure: Short stature is a common occurrence among children with CKD, also due to a lack of production or decreased responsiveness to certain regulatory hormones, specifically those responsible for red blood cell production and bone growth.

Cognitive and behavioral development: Researchers suspect depression as well as memory and learning may be affected by a decrease in brain and central nervous system functions, possibly caused by CKD-induced anemia.

"Even though children represent a small population of all patients with kidney disease, it's possible some of the risk factors that we identify in children may be applicable to adults, particularly those involving neurocognitive functioning and heart disease," Furth said.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, more than 20 million Americans — one in nine adults — have chronic kidney disease. Approximately 5,000 children in the United States have end-stage renal disease, or kidney failure, Furth said.

Patients interested in participating in the study should contact Susan Furth at 410-502-7964 or


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