Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have received a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to establish a Pediatric Center of Excellence in Nephrology. The center’s physician-scientists will create high-definition molecular reference maps that show the genetic details of normal and diseased kidneys during various stages of infant growth and development. The center team will also launch related educational programs to attract new researchers to the field.
Kidney problems in children can range from short-term treatable disorders to chronic diseases with devastating long-term consequences, including kidney failure, which requires dialysis treatment and often a kidney transplant. Common causes of kidney disease include birth defects, hereditary diseases, immune damage, infections, and the consequences of other systemic problems, such as diabetes and hypertension. Chronically ill children with kidney disease may spend longer in the hospital, incur higher healthcare costs and have a higher risk of death compared with pediatric patients hospitalized for other chronic conditions, research suggests.
“The development of effective methods for early detection and measurement of severity of kidney disease in children is lagging in part due to a lack of understanding of the physiologic and pathologic changes that occur as the kidney matures,” he said. the co-principal investigator. Vikas Dharnidharka, MDdirector of the Division of Pediatric Nephrology, Hypertension and Pheresis in the Department of Pediatrics in the Faculty of Medicine. “The molecular blueprints generated by our initiative will dramatically improve our ability to design effective approaches to intervene and prevent kidney dysfunction.”
Dharnidharka, Alexis F. Hartmann Sr., MD, Professor of Pediatrics and vice chair for clinical research in the Department of Pediatrics, is also co-medical director of the Pediatric Kidney Transplant Program at St. Louis Children’s Hospitalwhere he treats patients. Known nationally for their expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of kidney disease, Washington University pediatric specialists have led St. Louis Children’s to become a leading referral center for children with kidney disease.
Sanjay Jain, MD, PhDprofessor of medicine in the Department of Medicine Division of Nephrology, will serve as co-principal investigator and project leader for the initiative. Jain, a researcher at the school Regenerative Medicine Centerinvestigates the biology of kidney and lower urinary tract stem cells, with an emphasis on their potential to differentiate or remain stable in healthy and diseased states.
His lab explores how the kidneys form, how they connect to the bladder, and how their cellular and molecular makeup changes throughout life. His other NIH projects include the Kidney Precision Medicine Initiative and the Kidney Single Cell and Spatial Molecular Atlas Project as part of the Human Biomolecular Atlas Project, with funding through the NIH Pooled Fund, the Precision Medicine Project Kidney and National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).
The Center of Excellence Awards are funded through a highly competitive five-year selection process administered by the NIDDK. Only three of these projects receive funding in each cycle.
Initiative leaders will manage an annual pilot project program and various educational initiatives, including an annual research symposium, an eight-week summer internship program, and a visiting lecture program, all designed to attract new researchers to the field. Funding for the programs runs through June 2027.
The researchers will analyze healthy and diseased samples from pediatric kidneys using single cell and spatial transcriptomics, a molecular profiling method that allows scientists to precisely measure and map where gene activity occurs within a single cell or group of cells. By comparing how gene expression and cellular functions change during healthy development and disease progression, researchers hope to identify changes that play a role in creating and maintaining healthy kidneys and those that contribute to disease.
“Our goal is to detail the genetic and cellular mechanisms of childhood kidney disease and its progression to aid the development of new diagnostic tests, improved drugs, unique personalized therapies, and other clinical improvements that will help us limit or even cure genetic kidney disorders. or acquired. Jaina said.
Other co-investigators from the University of Washington are Dr Michael Rauchman, the Chromalloy Professor of Kidney Disease in Medicine; Y Jose Gaut, MD, PhD, the Ladenson Professor of Pathology and Immunology. The multidisciplinary team also includes co-investigators Gloria Pryhuber, MD, a neonatologist at the University of Rochester, and Michael Eadon, MD, a nephrologist at Indiana University.