portrait of Dr SandhuImperial Post-Doctoral, Post-CCT Research Fellowship

Exploring the effect of renal haemodialysis and the gut hormone uroguanylin on salt appetite 

Salt makes food taste good, and when we need salt our brain makes us like salty food even more. Keeping to a low salt diet is important for many patients especially dialysis patients. Modifying the appeal of salty food would help patients keep to the low salt diet. I therefore research how the body interacts with the brain, and the pathways in the brain which are involved, in changing the appeal of salt. The aim of my research is to develop medicine or techniques to change the appeal, and therefore intake, of salt.

Part of my research looks at how patients, who have kidney disease, differ from healthy people with regards to the liking of salty food and the way in which the taste of salty food is processed by the brain. Haemodialysis (the process used to remove waste when a patient’s kidneys stop working) may make the brain think that the body needs salt when it really does not. Functional MRI (fMRI) shows areas of the brain which are active using strong magnetic fields and radiowaves, not radiation. A difference in the brain's response to salty soup, pre and post haemodialysis, will identify the target areas of the brain for future research in salt appetite. Another part of my research is to further our understanding of the role of gut hormones (chemical messengers released by the gut after eating) in signalling to the brain that enough salt has been eaten and hence no further salt should be consumed.



Dr Eleanor Sandhu is an Imperial Post-CCT, Post-doctoral Research Fellow and Honorary Consultant Nephrologist at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. As a Chain Florey Fellow, she undertook a PhD investigating the role of ventral tegmental area dopamine neurons in salt appetite. Her research now focuses on the neurobiology of the body-brain axis in modifying salt intake and its translation to the clinical care of renal patients.