Chronic Kidney Disease Research

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: February 2023

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a common health problem, and it is becoming more common every year. Research into better treatments for kidney disease can help people lead healthier lives. There are many research projects that are helping doctors understand CKD better. This will help CKD treatment become more effective. With enough time, there may even be a cure for kidney disease.1

The United States government and many nonprofits fund programs to improve CKD diagnosis and care. There are generally 2 types of programs:2

  • Patient registries – These help doctors find and study people with CKD to improve their basic knowledge of the condition.
  • Clinical trials – These are aimed at finding new or better treatments for CKD.

Patient registries

The Kidney Precision Medicine Project (KPMP) is just one effort to build understanding and find new ways to treat CKD. This project asks people to have a kidney biopsy. A biopsy is a procedure in which a doctor removes a small sample of tissue from a kidney.1

The tissue is then studied, and information about the kidney is entered into a database. The data collected will help doctors:1

  • Find genetic markers that may be linked to CKD
  • Understand how diabetes and high blood pressure damage kidneys
  • Discover more precise treatments

Clinical trials

Medicine is based on research. Clinical trials using real people help doctors understand how safe and effective new treatments are. Even before a clinical trial begins, experts must perform a great deal of research. They also create detailed and safe plans for their trials (protocols).3

General stages of clinical trials

There are 4 stages, also called phases, of clinical trials.3

Phase 1 studies are done with a very small group of people to test the safety, dosage, and side effects of a drug. In most cases, participants are healthy volunteers who do not have the condition. This helps determine how the drug interacts with the body and what dosages are safe. Before using humans in phase 1, researchers often use animal models to get an estimate of what dosages to start with.3

Phase 2 and 3 studies typically have the same goal. These phases involve people with the condition. Researchers look to see how effective a drug is and monitor participants for side effects. Phase 3 studies often involve many more people than phase 2 studies.3

Phase 4 studies occur after a drug has been approved. This allows researchers to monitor for new or different side effects that may happen with long-term use.3

Finding current CKD clinical trials

One of the first resources you can use to find a clinical trial is your doctor. Your nephrologist is an especially good resource. They may know of trials both in your area and nationally that you can join.4

You can also view current clinical trials both in the United States and around the world at At this time, there are thousands of ongoing studies for chronic kidney disease.4

Major research, advocacy, nonprofit, and professional groups also support clinical trials. Their websites are good places to look for clinical trials as well. The National Kidney Foundation is currently sponsoring trials studying:5

  • How to help people with end-stage kidney disease keep their jobs
  • Whether thyroid medicine improves dialysis patients' quality of life
  • New tests to reduce infections in people using peritoneal dialysis
  • Links between kidney disease and lupus
  • Genetic risk of kidney disease in people with sickle cell disease
  • How sleep affects the kidneys and whether melatonin helps kidney function
  • How the loss of smell and taste is linked to malnutrition in people with CKD

The National Kidney Foundation also offers Research Connection, a service to help CKD patients find clinical trials. Research funded by the National Kidney Foundation is the basis for the Kidney Disease Outcomes Quality Initiatives (KDOQI). KDOQI sets global standards for how kidney disease is treated.6

If you ever want to learn more about CKD treatments and why your doctor may recommend the things they do, you can read the KDOQI guidelines for yourself. If you find a clinical trial you are interested in from any of these sources, ask your doctor if it might be a good fit.6

Clinical trial participants are always needed

Researchers almost always need more people to join clinical trials. In the United States, clinical trials often need more people of color to enroll. Having the broadest sample of people helps doctors better understand whether treatments work well for the overall population and in specific groups.7

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