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Learn how SSM Health is actively participating in a national study to determine how race plays a role in kidney transplant outcomes.

The transplant team at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital is proud to be a part of the ‘APOL1 Long-term Kidney Transplantation Outcomes’ (APOLLO) Network, a national study supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that is working to address racial disparities in kidney transplant outcomes.

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“These disparities occur at many levels, including in the risk of kidney disease developing itself, access to transplant, referral and waitlist, as well as the types of organs the patients receive, all of which can impact critical outcomes like patient survival,” said Dr. Krista Lentine, co-director of research at the SLU Hospital Transplant Center, in an interview with St. Louis Public Radio.

SLU Hospital is one of 13 clinics across the country participating in the four-year study, with the goal of improving the lives of those who donate and receive kidneys by learning more about genetic variations that are found in some people of African descent.

“The recent discovery is that a portion of the risk in African American persons is actually related to genetic variance, or differences in genes, rather than in race itself,” Dr. Lentine said in another interview with Fox 2.

African Americans have increased risk of kidney failure, and new research shows that some of this risk is related to variations in a gene called apolipoprotein L1 (APOL1). APOL1 genetic variants also impact kidney transplant outcomes.

“Having one copy of this kidney risk variant is protective against African sleeping sickness, but having two copies is associated with kidney problems,” Dr. Lentine said.

The APOLLO study follows kidney donors and transplant recipients from all across the country over several years to better understand and inform ways to improve those outcomes. This is an unprecedented study in its breadth and scope, seeking to involve all organ procurement organizations, transplant centers in the country, as well as community advisors in the united network for organ sharing.

Deryl Cunningham, a kidney transplant recipient at SLU Hospital, told KSDK, a St. Louis news station, that, “With APOL1, I basically got one gene from my mom and one gene from my dad that doesn’t agree with my body.”

After discovering his genotype result from clinical testing, Cunningham is now collaborating with the SLUCare kidney transplant team at SLU Hospital by participating in research to raise awareness about the APOL1 gene.

“Working together, we can eliminate health care disparities based on ‘race,’ ensure that disease prevention and management strategies are delivered with optimal cultural sensitivity and improve health and well-being among those of greatest need,” Dr. Lentine said, in a press release from Saint Louis University.

This content was originally published here.

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