Dr Richard Phelps
Richard Phelps' research aims to find out the causes of autoimmune kidney diseases, and how these may be better treated, and how proteinuria is closely related to the outcome of renal injury.
The research aims to find out the causes of autoimmune kidney diseases, and how these may be better treated, and how proteinuria is closely related to the outcome of renal injury.
Autoimmunity - In autoimmune diseases, including many kidney diseases, the body's own immune system makes a mistake and attacks itself. We are trying to find out why this happens and how it can be switched off.
Glomerular basement membrane (GBM) diseases - Some rare diseases affecting the GBM, including Goodpasture's disease and Alport Syndrome. We are sometimes able to help with difficult cases of these and related diseases.
Proteinuria - is a sign that there is a high risk of kidney failure. We are studying how it is caused and how it may be prevented.
Approaches and Progress
Autoimmunity and antigen processing - we have followed an unusual approach by targeting investigations on the processes that lead to the presentation of particular antigen-derived peptides to the immune system for disease or tolerance induction, developing biochemical and cellular techniques to detect and monitor these pathways.
Proteinuria - we model glomerular injury by transgenesis and ways of protecting against further consequential injury.
Basement membrane disorders - we undertake specialist investigation of unusual clinical samples in suspected anti-GBM disease, and undertake protein expression studies in Alport syndrome.
Kidney inflammation is a key part of most diseases that lead to renal failure. The group's main research theme is autoimmunity: how it is triggered, and how it may be controlled - as this is the trigger to inflammation in many kidney diseases. Professor Turner and Dr Phelps have approached this problem from the angle of what happens to the target molecules, the autoantigens, in autoimmune diseases affecting the kidney. In their latest project, this is combined with an approach to how regulatory cells control responses to self antigens, in conjunction with Professor Steve Anderton.
A more recent theme has been a study of one particular type of kidney cell and how it affects proteinuria (leakage of protein into urine) and the survival of damaged kidneys. Proteinuria is one of the strongest predictors of whether kidneys lose function with time and understanding how this can be prevented could have major benefits.
The two PIs in the group also have extensive involvement in teaching, renal IT, and other external matters. Professor Turner chairs Kidney Research UK, the largest charity funding renal research in the country.