Research

Transformative and Innovative

research scientist in lab

We are committed to conducting path-breaking research to improve the lives of people with kidney diseases.

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Research

From the time of inception, the division of nephrology has led the field with innovation and discovery. Work done in the early years made long-term outpatient dialysis for kidney failure a reality. Subsequently, under the leadership of Dr. William Couser, UW became the first academic division to focus on understanding the pathogenesis of kidney diseases, particularly immune-mediated glomerular diseases,  instead of renal physiology.

Dr. Stuart Shankland further cemented the research credentials of the division with the establishment of the Kidney Research Institute in 2008 with generous support from the Northwest Kidney Centers under the stewardship of the organization’s CEO, Joyce Jackson. 

Today, the divisional faculty lead a large and diverse research portfolio that is advancing our understanding of kidney diseases through laboratory research and clinical research that includes translational studies, qualitative research, cohort studies, and clinical trials.

Leadership

Ian de Boer, MD

Ian de Boer, MD, MS

Professor
Director of Research, Nephrology
Director, Kidney Research Institute
deboer@uw.edu 

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Leila Zelnick, PhD

Leila Zelnick, PhD

Research Associate Professor
Director of Biostatistics, Kidney Research Institute
lzelnick@uw.edu

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Interdisciplinary Research

We collaborate and partner with many complementary fields. They include bioengineering, pharmaceutics, immunology, pathology, public health, epidemiology, biostatistics, health care services, and more. Each serves as a component of the foundation for our comprehensive approach to treating kidney diseases and accompanying complications.

funded research

Nephrology faculty are funded by individual grants as well as major program project grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), numerous other government and non-governmental entities, and foundations.

Many of our junior faculty members have career development grants (NIH K-awards), and we have a strong record of transitioning to independent NIH R01 awards.

In recent academic years, 80% of all submitted proposals were funded. We are proud to have had an active NIH T-32 training grant in the Division for over 20 years, with a new grant underway.

Research Advancements

Through research funding and innovation, we are able to advance the field of kidney health and transform lives.

Kidney on a chip

Kidney on a chip

The Kidney Research Institute (KRI) has engineered a kidney tissue chip to predict drug safety. The aim is to design human tissue chips that replicate human organs in order to test drugs in their early stages to see if they will cause complications to the organs. 

Backpack size dialysis

Backpack-size artificial kidney

Dr. Jonathan Himmelfarb and 30-some people are working on the Center for Dialysis Innovation’s prototype artificial kidney, a device intended to free patients from thrice-weekly, hours-long visits to dialysis centers. The Artificial Kidney was granted Expedited Access Pathway status by the FDA, after the device performed successfully in its first U.S. clinical trial at UWMC. This is one of the first innovations in dialysis technology in decades and it has enormous potential to change patients’ quality of life.

Kidney disease in a petri dish

Lab-engineered kidney disease

Dr. Jonathan Himmelfarb and 30-some people are working on the Center for Dialysis Innovation’s prototype artificial kidney, a device intended to free patients from thrice-weekly, hours-long visits to dialysis centers. The Artificial Kidney was granted Expedited Access Pathway status by the FDA, after the device performed successfully in its first U.S. clinical trial at UWMC. This is one of the first innovations in dialysis technology in decades and it has enormous potential to change patients’ quality of life.

UW Nephrology Women in Research

Publications

Writing a paper

Published Research

Our faculty consistently publish new research in nationally recognized journals.

A history of innovation

The first Scribner Shunt was successfully used on a dialysis patient in 1960, paving the way for patient survival rates in kidney disease.

Seattle has long been the place for kidney research. In 1960, Dr. Belding H. Scribner, the first division head of nephrology at the University of Washington, and his colleagues developed a blood access device for hemodialysis called the Scribner Shunt, providing a lifeline for patients with kidney failure.

The shunt allowed patients to receive life-saving dialysis on a long-term basis, changing kidney failure from a death sentence to a treatable condition. Dr. Scribner subsequently founded Northwest Kidney Centers, the first outpatient dialysis program in the world, and made Seattle an international center for advances in kidney disease.

research support

Blossom study image

Kidney Research Support Fund

The future of kidney care is dependent upon a robust research program. Invest in the future by helping to provide critical resources for nephrology research.

Research News 

March 7, 2024
Prototype device effectively treated multiorgan failure
Clinical trial results published last week describe a novel medical device that, in a 10-patient pilot, showed remarkable success at rescuing people from multiorgan failure caused by acute-on-chronic liver failure.
February 27, 2024
Susan Wong selected as Fulbright Scholar
She will serve as a Fulbright Distinguished Professor to the United Kingdom.
February 8, 2024
Promising drug-development systems get new U.S. funding
Scientists hope mini kidney structures will earn FDA approval and reduce reliance on animals in testing of new drug candidates.