National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded two grants totalling $4.73m to study nephrotic syndrome, a kidney disorder that causes the body to excrete too much protein into the urine.

The funds have been granted to Northwell Health’s Cohen Children’s Medical Center and The Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research.

Christine B Sethna, division director of paediatric nephrology at Cohen Children’s Medical Center, will be the principal investigator for two different research studies.

The first study will use $1.03m to start a new clinical trial for children with nephrotic syndrome.

Often, children with nephrotic syndrome are exposed to prolonged courses of steroids and other immunosuppressant medications leading to adverse effects.

The initial research will study the mechanism of action by stimulating the vagus nerve non-invasively on the ear to have immunomodulatory effects mediated by the inflammatory reflex and spleen.

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Sethna said: “This funding will allow us to study, and ultimately help, children living with nephrotic syndrome and better understand how the condition can best be treated without negative side effects that steroids and medications could potentially leave.

“These advancements can further the evidence that drugs are not always necessary to alleviate a problem, especially in young children.”

The second grant of $3.7m will be used to initiate the kNIGHT study, which will focus on nocturnal hypertension in children with nephrotic syndrome.

The observational study will examine the nighttime blood pressure and cardiovascular outcomes in children with nephrotic syndrome at 22 different centres.

Philip Lanzkowsky MD chair Charles Schleien, who is also paediatric services senior vice-president and Pediatrics and Anesthesiology professor at Northwell Health said: “Dr Sethna is conducting valuable research to better understand nephrotic syndrome in children.

“With the support of these two grants, one day children may have new treatment options to help manage their disease and improve their overall quality of life.”