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Media Release

October 3 2007

UniSA tests new strategies for improving kidney dialysis

KidneysResearch that focuses on improving the lives of people on dialysis for chronic kidney failure has been given a boost with a National Health and Medical Research Council grant of almost $400,000 awarded to the University of South Australia.

Chief Investigator and Head of the School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences, Professor Allan Evans is conducting research at UniSA's Sansom Institute to determine whether or not the compound L-Carnitine can deliver improved health benefits for people on chronic haemodialysis.

L-Carnitine is a naturally occurring component of muscle that tends to disappear from the bodies of patients on chronic haemodialysis because it is removed by the dialysis procedure. Although some patients are not adversely affected by low levels of L-Carnitine, others require supplementation of the lost compound.

“While not used in Australia, studies in North America and in Europe have shown that some patients benefit enormously when L-Carnitine is administered but we don’t know who will benefit from L-Carnitine supplementation and who won’t,” Professor Evans said.

“Although administered to many people in these countries, the lack of knowledge about who will or won’t benefit from L-Carnitine makes this a particularly inefficient way of using the supplement,” he said.

“We want to know the science behind why some people experience health improvements from L-Carnitine and others don’t, even though they have low levels of the compound in their bodies. Our research hopes to develop some reliable predictors of who will benefit from the supplement.

“We will conduct a placebo controlled study in recruited patients who are experiencing problems with anaemia during chronic haemodialysis.

“If benefits can be found, it will improve the quality of life of chronic dialysis patients by reducing muscle cramping and weakness, which improves muscle strength and function; reducing the incidence of anaemia, which gives them much more energy – overall resulting in fewer complications associated with haemodialysis,” Prof Evans said.

“If the benefits of L-Carnitine are proven and adopted for use in Australia, it will add to what is currently used here and save on unnecessary supplementation for people who we know won’t experience health improvements.”

Prof Evans has been involved in L-Carnitine research for 15 years. He has been a major contributor to international knowledge and has published widely in the area of L-Carnitine research. His research group has had a longstanding collaboration with Senior Consultant in Nephrology at Royal Adelaide Hospital, Associate Professor Randall Faull, who is also Chief Investigator on the project.

Congratulating the grant recipients UniSA Vice Chancellor, Professor Peter Høj and Pro Vice Chancellor Research, Professor Caroline McMillen, said the University was continuing to build its research capacity across a range of key research strengths including health and public health, particles science and surface chemistry, biomedical engineering, advanced manufacturing, sociology, psychology and IT development.

"In the past three years we have seen UniSA grow in research strength, including drawing new funding support from agencies such as the NHMRC and enhanced ongoing investment from the ARC to support a broader base for our research efforts," Prof Høj said.

"It is always exciting to see this kind of growth in research capacity, not only because it rewards the ongoing efforts of individual researchers and their teams, but because it is great for the innovative capacity and quality of life in Australia.”

More information about more of UniSA's latest successful research grants is available online.

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