Is the eye a window to the kidney?

Kidney disease damages blood vessels, causing poor cardiovascular health. Early identification of kidney disease can improve long-term patient outcomes and lower healthcare costs but it is not possible to monitor kidney blood vessel structure and function without serial biopsy.

We have Kidney Research UK funding to develop non-invasive retinal imaging as a kinder approach to kidney disease monitoring. We use optical coherence tomography to scan the back of the eye in patients with kidney disease and find changes in the density and structure of blood vessels in the eye relating directly to the degree of kidney dysfunction. We are developing AI approaches to rapidly analyse human images and our most recent study , shows that deep retinal vascular analysis can help identify microvascular changes in kidney donors beyond standard clinical measures. Patients have also asked us if this technology can be used to identify new treatments for kidney disease and a new project is establishing eye imaging technology in mice with kidney disease. Stepping back to an experimental setting allows us to explore causes and may allow us to leap forward with new approaches to improving blood vessel health in kidney disease.

Link to paper