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Matthew Lanktree, MD, PhD

Award: KRESCENT New investigator award
Institution: McMaster University
Year: 2019-2022

Study title: Assessing the Omnigenic Contribution to Chronic Kidney Disease

Dr. Matthew Lanktree is a clinician scientist in nephrology genetics at McMaster University. Dr. Lanktree obtained an undergraduate degree in bioinformatics at University of Waterloo, followed by a combined MD/PhD at Western University with special training in human genetics. Moving to McMaster, he completed clinical training in internal medicine and nephrology, before moving to University of Toronto for a post-doctoral research fellowship in heritable kidney disease under Drs. York Pei and Andrew Paterson. Dr. Lanktree has received funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, is the recipient of the Jared G. Grantham Fellowship of the American Society of Nephrology, and a post-doctoral fellowship followed by a new investigator award from the Canadian Kidney Research Scientist Core Education National Training (KRESCENT) program. Over the last 15 years, Dr. Lanktree has published over 60 articles in high impact journals in genetics and medicine, including recent articles in Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, and Nature Reviews Nephrology. Dr. Lanktree has set his goal to translate genetic studies into improved care of patients with kidney disease. The genetics field has been quick to recognize the importance of large collaborations to generate samples sizes required to confidently identify genetic variants with small but important effects.  He has been fortunate to lead and participate in such collaborations and want to work to include more multi-disciplinary professionals, as well as patient partners, into his research program in his new position as a clinician scientist at McMaster University.
Lay Summary
Kidney disease affects 1 in 10 Canadians. 35,000 Canadians currently have kidney failure needing dialysis or a kidney transplant. A cause for the kidney failure is not found in 35% of patients. Diet and the environment can contribute to kidney disease but our genes also play an important role. Each person has 30,000 genes and breaking even one can cause a kidney disease. A "broken" gene results from a genetic change that makes the gene unable to make a working protein. Mutations are just bad luck and inherited from your parents. Mutations that result from exposure to a toxin can cause cancer but haven't been linked to kidney disease so far.  Genetic studies have thus far focused on families with many relatives affected by kidney disease and discovered over 200 single gene kidney diseases where one gene is broken. However, all of these 200 kidney diseases are uncommon and they together explain a small percentage of patients. Instead of looking for one broken gene, Dr. Lanktree will look for many poorly working genes leading to kidney disease. He will collect blood and urine from 1000 patients with kidney disease and use cutting edge genetic and computer technology. He will compare test results from kidney disease patients with 500,000 people from the general public and focus on patients who remain without a diagnosis to look for new types of kidney disease.
Kidney disease has no symptoms until it has advanced. This creates a big window to treat and slow the disease before it causes problems. However, treating a disease the patient does not know they have is difficult. Especially when it causes no symptoms. As well, most available treatments to slow kidney disease remain fairly ineffective. This is why we need research. Dr. Lanktree would like to be able to tell patients what is causing their kidney disease and to predict who is going to get worse, even in early stages of kidney disease. Treatment can be targeted to those who need it most. This research could prevent kidney disease from getting worse at an earlier stage and could help to reassure people unlikely to progress to kidney failure. It could also lead to new ways to treat the specific kidney disease of each patient.