Singer Becomes Voice of Kidney Charity
Singer and Grammy Award-winner Natalie Cole has been named spokesperson of the non-profit United Kidney Research Organization (UKRO), which supports medical research related to the prevention, treatment and eradication of all forms of kidney disease.

"As someone who has been affected by a form of kidney disease, I recognize that I survived kidney failure and am alive and healthy today because of the availability of improved treatments, procedures and medications devised from decades of medical research," Cole said. "Through my involvement, I hope to bring greater recognition to UKRO's fundraising efforts for kidney research."

Cole will support UKRO efforts and raise awareness about the importance of research in fighting all forms of kidney disease. Cole received a kidney transplant in May 2009 after almost 10 months on dialysis following the loss of kidney function resulting from other medical treatments.

Over 26 million people in the U.S. alone are believed to suffer from some type of kidney disease, and millions of others are at increased risk, according to the National Kidney Foundation. The Wall Street Journal's Marketwatch reported in 2009 that Medicare costs for kidney disease are almost $72,000 per patient annually. Additionally, the American Society of Nephrology states that the annual costs of treating end-stage renal disease are currently $32 billion, with the number of ESRD patients expected to escalate to 785,000 by 2020, up from 380,000 in 2000.

Despite these statistics, kidney disease research remains under-funded. The UKRO is contributing to kidney research primarily-but not exclusively-at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, and hopes to secure contributions sufficient to establish a kidney research center.