Transplant survivor welcomes £125,000 research grant

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A DOUBLE-TRANSPLANT survivor today welcomed a £125,000 research grant that could provide a breakthrough to the condition she lives with everyday.

Sarah Laing has suffered from debilitating cystinosis since she was just two-years-old.

This week, scientists at Sunderland University were handed research cash in the hope of changing the lives of millions of people like Sarah.

There is no cure for the condition, which is triggered due to a patient’s inability to produce the amino acid cystine. This can cause malfunctioning in cells, leading to kidney problems.

Kidney problems like those that led Sarah, of Moorside, to need two lifesaving transplants.

The 21-year-old said: “I would welcome anything that meant young children didn’t have to suffer with this condition the way I did.

“Cystinosis has left me with rickets because not enough calcium gets to my bones. I also have problems with my eyes and sunlight can affect me, giving me migraines.

“I remember being at nursery school and the other children saying they didn’t want to sit next to me or asking the teacher if they could move somewhere else - those types of things can be really hurtful.”

The funding, from the Cystinosis Foundation UK (CFUK), will support research at the University evaluating whether prodrugs, intended to drastically improve the condition, could work effectively.

Sarah had her first kidney transplant when she was just 14.

“They told me the organ had come from a 42-year-old car crash victim. I even got a card from the woman donor’s family wishing me a speedy recovery.”

Sarah’s was later told the donated kidney would need to be replaced and, on June 21 last year, she underwent another transplant.

“Now I just manage my cystinosis the best way I can. It means I have to take up to 38 tablets a day, but that’s nothing compared to the 65 I used to take,” she added.

“The medicine I take has a funny smell, so I have to take a lot of chewing gum everywhere I go and brush my teeth pretty often.”

Professor Roz Anderson, who heads up the team of pharmaceutical scientists at Sunderland University, said: “This new financial support will allow us to work with clinicians and industrial collaborators in Europe to investigate the prodrugs for their potential to progress to patient use.”

It is hoped that the research will lead to an effective and improved treatment for the condition.

Sarah, who now hopes to become a nursery nurse or nanny, said: “Anything that can help improve the lives of sufferers would be fantastic.”

Twitter: @craigjourno