Jürgen B. Schnermann, M.D., Chief
Howard A. Austin III, M.D.
James E. Balow, M.D.
Jeffrey B. Kopp, M.D.
Robert A. Star, M.D.
Our Problem and Mission
Acute kidney injury complicates about 5% of all hospitalizations and is estimated to affect more than half of all patients on intensive care units. Chronic kidney disease requiring replacement therapy in the form of dialysis or transplantation is a major public health problem, affecting an estimated 500,000 Americans. It is also an important health disparity, disproportionately affecting individuals of different ethnicities. Polycystic kidney disease affects between 1 in 500 and 1 in 1,000 Americans and is the fourth most common cause of end-stage kidney disease in the United States. The mission of the Kidney Disease Branch is to promote the fundamental understanding of kidney function in health and disease, and to undertake research that will improve the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of all of these kidney diseases in clinical practice.
The kidney is an organ essential for maintaining fluid and electrolyte balance, regulating mineral metabolism, producing hormones, and excreting metabolic wastes and drug metabolites. Each kidney is made up of approximately 1 million nephrons, each of which comprises a filter unit (the glomerulus) and a tubule system that processes the filtrate. Together, the kidneys process approximately 30 gallons of filtrate a day to generate between eight and 16 cups of urine in an average adult. This process can be disrupted acutely, often by lack of appropriate blood perfusion or by toxic or infectious agents, leading to a disease with high mortality. In chronic kidney disease, glomerular filtration and subsequent absorptive mechanisms along the renal tubules can also deteriorate slowly, eventually requiring treatment by dialysis or transplantation.
We have four research units that address distinct research topics related to kidney function and disease. The Laboratory of Renal Function Development conducts laboratory investigations on kidney physiology, with a particular emphasis on the mechanisms that regulate salt and water balance, glomerular filtration rate, and arterial blood pressure within the kidneys. The Renal Diagnostics and Therapeutics Unit carries out clinical and laboratory studies on the pathogenesis, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of acute kidney injury in people and in animal models. The Kidney Disease Section directs clinical and laboratory studies on the nature, pathogenesis, diagnosis, natural history, treatment, and prevention of chronic kidney diseases, working with individuals with these conditions as well as experimental models. The Polycystic Kidney Disease Laboratory conducts investigations on the processes that regulate normal tubular morphology and result in polycystic kidney disease when disrupted.