Molecular and Translational Kidney Research
Head of the Group
Prof. Dr. Kai Schmidt-Ott
27: Walter-Friedrich House
The kidney is a central organ in cardiovascular diseases. It excretes toxins into the urine, regulates blood pressure and solute homeostasis, and produces hormones. High blood pressure (hypertension) and chronic kidney disease rank among the top risk factors for cardiovascular end organ damage.
The kidney is composed of structural units called nephrons, which consist of more than 20 different types of epithelial cells that facilitate transport between the urinary compartment and the interstitium. In the embryo, kidney development is initiated during mid-embryogenesis, when the ureteric bud, an epithelial tubule extending from the nephric duct, interacts with an adjacent cell population of committed stem cells in the metanephric mesenchyme. The ureteric bud undergoes branching morphogenesis to give rise to the ureter, renal pelvis and collecting duct system, while the metanephric mesenchyme progenitors generate many additional cell types of the nephron.
The molecular and cellular events underlying kidney development are intricately linked to kidney disease. Exogenous or genetic perturbations of kidney development result in urogenital malformations, cystic kidney diseases and other types of congenital kidney disease. Furthermore, adult kidney epithelia preserve the ability to reactivate molecular pathways from earlier developmental stages in certain disease states, including acute kidney injury, kidney fibrosis, and kidney tumors.
Our group investigates the molecular mechanisms that govern kidney development and kidney disease. We focus on gene regulatory networks that determine aspects of epithelial differentiation, regeneration, and homeostasis. We employ a wide spectrum of cell and molecular biology techniques utilizing genetic model organisms and systems biology approaches.