Research Center of Excellence in Pediatric Nephrology

As a federally funded Research Center of Excellence in Pediatric Nephrology — one of only two in the country — our kidney disease research program builds on groundbreaking research programs at the Medical College of Wisconsin and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Research Institute, expediting new and exciting treatments for thousands of children with genetic, acquired or progressive kidney disease.

About kidney disease

Congenital and acquired kidney diseases are a major source of morbidity and mortality in children. Approximately 50 percent of children with kidney disease have structural renal abnormalities, generally associated with known or suspected genetic mutations. However, the basic molecular and cellular mechanisms of the majority of pediatric disorders are still poorly understood.

Polycystic kidney disease prevents the kidneys from functioning normally and can affect other organs in addition to the kidneys. PKD is one of the most common hereditary diseases, impacting about 600,000 people in the United States alone and costing more than $3.6 billion annually to treat chronic renal failure in those affected. Right now, there is no known cure or specific treatment for PKD.

Research highlights

Our researchers work closely with the nationally ranked Renal Clinic at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, a clinic solely devoted to the multidisciplinary diagnosis and treatment of children with polycystic kidney disease. It is a unique resource used by children from all over the world for comprehensive diagnostics, therapeutic care plans and consideration for preimplantation genetic diagnosis.

  • The National Institutes of Health awarded Children’s Research Institute a five-year, $4.6 million grant to establish a Research Center of Excellence in Pediatric Nephrology. Our researchers focus on three major areas:
  • Polycystic kidney disease, which is a genetic disorder characterized by the growth of numerous fluid-filled cysts in the kidneys
  • Genetic susceptibility of glomerular disease, a condition associated with hypertension and diabetes, which accounts for 80 percent of the patients with chronic kidney failure on dialysis
  • Damage that occurs when the kidney lacks oxygen

Researchers at the center are working to delineate the genetic and cellular mechanisms of childhood kidney disease and its progression and develop unique therapies that will limit or even cure genetic or acquired kidney disorders. Basic research at the laboratory bench at the molecular and cellular level can unveil discoveries that can lead to clinical improvement at the patient’s bedside. This work is expected to translate ultimately to new diagnostic tests and new clinical trials for specific therapies in children with genetic and acquired kidney diseases.