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The Division of Nephrology and Hypertension and the UNC Kidney Center sponsor innovative programs for both patient-oriented clinical and basic science research programs to better understand the pathogenesis of kidney disease, and to explore and develop new diagnostic, preventative and treatment modalities. The scope of our research is broad and includes basic and translational research studies, along with clinical trials in studies of glomerular disease, dialysis, diabetic nephropathy, kidney imaging, lupus, and polycystic kidney disease. 

Focus Areas

Research is integral to both the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension and the UNC Kidney Center’s mission to reduce the burden of chronic kidney disease through discovery about the pathophysiology and therapeutics of kidney disease. Our multidisciplinary research is funded through a variety of external sources, including the National Institutes of Health (P01, T32, U01, K23 awards), foundations, private donors and corporate grants. Our research is categorized into the areas below:

Observational/Registry Studies
For over thirty years, community nephrology offices, the UNC Division of Nephrology and the UNC Nephropathology Laboratory have worked together through the Glomerular Disease Collaborative Network (GDCN) to enhance research efforts for patients diagnosed with glomerular disease. The foundation of the GDCN is its registry of over 3,600 patients diagnosed with glomerular disease who have agreed to share clinical data and biologic samples. Data and samples are used for epidemiologic studies and a wide range of basic science and translational research projects.

The successes of the GDCN registry has enabled the participation in national and international registries, including CureGN, NEPTUNE, and TRIDENT. You can learn more about these registries here.

Basic Science Research
Over 9,000 biologic samples have been collected under the GDCN biorepository from patients with kidney disease, disease controls, and healthy controls. These samples, paired with associated clinical data, are used by the UNC Kidney Center’s research laboratories to better understand the pathogenesis of disease, the effects of therapy of disease processes, the biology of remission and relapse, and possible biomarkers for disease. Experimental animal models (mouse, zebrafish, drosophila) are also being created and studies in the UNC Kidney Center labs to elucidate the pathogenesis and progression of kidney disease.
Clinical Trials
Investigators are also leading the charge to study the effect of interventions on patients with kidney disease through the development and participation in a variety of clinical trials. In a clinical trial, participants receive specific interventions according to the research plan or protocol created by the investigators. These interventions may be medical products, such as drugs or devices; procedures; or changes to participants’ behavior, such as diet.
Patient-Centered Research
The Patient-Centered Innovation in Kidney Disease Program, lead by Jenny Flythe, aims to improve the safety and experiences of individuals living with kidney disease by bettering clinical and patient-reported outcomes. Various clinical study designs and approaches are used, including epidemiology, clinical trials, qualitative methods, and implementation research. We collaborate with diverse stakeholders to enhance research design, promote dissemination and clinical uptake of findings, and improve care delivery.
Vascular Access Research
Investigators lead a translational research program in uremic vascular biology, with the goal of addressing the very fundamental questions about what happens to a blood vessel in animal models, and/or a human with kidney failure. At a translational level, this question encompasses both vascular access dysfunction and cardiovascular disease in patients with CKD and ESRD, with a special emphasis on biomarkers for risk stratification and prediction, and future clinical trials.

UNC Kidney Center

The UNC Kidney Center is a Center for Excellence for Glomerular Diseases and Vasculitis, providing care for patients and leading research studies in the field. You can explore our current research projects or search open clinical trials and medical research studies on our UNC Kidney Center website. You can also explore our vast Kidney Health Library, which contains helpful information for patients wanting to learn more about their kidney disease, including educational audio podcasts that cover a wide range of topics related to kidney disease, kidney transplant and patient support. Many disease-specific educational podcasts are available that have been specially developed to address the most common questions asked by our patients in a manner that is easy to understand.

Learn more about the center and its members at the UNC Kidney Center website.