Research Interests

How kidney organoids from Allen Institute cells are illuminating kidney disease and regeneration:

A brief explanation of our work, courtesy of the National Kidney Foundation:

How research is giving people hope – from Northwest Kidney Centers:

A webinar on our work with gene editing, stem cells, and polycystic kidney disease, sponsored by the PKD Foundation:

Our lab is currently engaged in research in the following areas:

Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells are adult cells which have been reprogrammed to an embryonic stem cell-like state. They can differentiate into any type of cell in the embryo, including kidney cells. iPS cells from patients are valuable for two reasons. First, they are a laboratory resource for studying human disease mechanisms. Second, they could potentially be used for immunocompatible tissue regeneration.

Can iPS cells be used to regenerate kidneys? Our group is making progress directing the differentiation of iPS cells into kidney cell types. We have used this technology to generate ‘kidney-in-a-dish’ tissues from iPS cells. iPS cells are the only cell type capable of regenerating kidney tissue from adult patients. One day, such cells might be implanted into patients for immunocompatible transplant, on-demand and without the need for immunosuppression.

Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) is an extremely common disease in which cysts and fibrosis replace the normal kidney tubules, eventually causing kidney failure. PKD is caused by mutations in a protein complex which localizes to the primary cilium, an antenna-like organelle which extends from the cell surface into the kidney tubule. The precise function of the complex, and why it causes cysts, remains a mystery, and unraveling that mystery may lead to a cure.

slide_epithelialcellsBoth iPS cells and kidney cells are epithelial cells, meaning they form a barrier. What similarities do these two cell types have, and what differences? How do mesenchymal cells “change” into epithelial cells? Understanding the fundamental properties of both undifferentiated and adult epithelial cells will help us better understand what makes an epithelial cell, and how  epithelia are specialized in different tissues.