Reinnervating the kidneys

Destroying the nerves supplying the kidneys (renal denervation) using radiofrequency power transfer catheters is being trialled as a novel treatment in patients with drug-resistant hypertension, chronic kidney disease and heart failure.

The renal nerves surrounding the renal artery are destroyed via heat generated at the tip of the catheter, which is transferred across the artery wall. Our laboratory has shown a significant reduction in the number of nerves 1 week following renal denervation in sheep using the same catheter used in human patients. Further, we have shown regrowth of the nerves 5.5 and 11 months after the procedure. However, these initial studies only investigated the function of the nerves under anaesthesia and the immunohistochemcial evidence of nerve regrowth in kidney tissue. The current project will investigate the function of the renal nerves in conscious sheep in the first 6-8 weeks after denervation. The results of this study are likely to have a marked impact on the catheter-based denervation field.

Techniques expected to be mastered during this honours project include chronic recordings of cardiovascular variables in conscious large animals, quantitative immunohistochemistry, data analysis and statistical methods. There is the potential for publication for motivated students.