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Research Programs

Cystic kidney diseases comprise a wide range of genetic, developmental, and acquired disorders that are characterized by the presence of fluid-filled cysts that develop in one or both kidneys and can lead to massive kidney enlargement and hemorrhage, as well as damage to the liver, pancreas, heart, and brain.

Polycystic Kidney Disease Research

Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is the most common form of cystic kidney disease. The University of Maryland Polycystic Kidney Disease research program includes experts in biochemistry, genetics, in vivo and in vitro PKD models, and clinical trials, who focus on understanding the molecular causes for cyst development as well as other manifestations of PKD in order to develop better treatments.

The University of Maryland is home to one of three NIDDK-funded PKD Research and Translation Core Centers that provide innovative research resources to a national and international community of investigators. The Central Coordinating Site for the Center is also located at the University of Maryland.

Our Basic Science program is closely linked to a Clinical Translational Research Program that manages a natural history study of polycystic kidney disease as well as conducts clinical trials of potential therapeutic agents for autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease. Division faculty provide multidisciplinary care for patients with PKD and access to PKD research cores through the Maryland PKD Research and Translational Core Center. The center has recruited experts in biochemistry, genetics, and structural biology to determine the molecular causes for cyst development in the kidney and stop its evolution to renal failure.

Early Renal Insufficiency Program

The Early Renal Insufficiency (ERI) Program is a resource for the care of patients at the earliest stages of kidney disease. The ERI Program consists of four clinics at University of Maryland Medical System-connected facilities and offers patients access to enriched disease management and opportunities to participate in clinical trials.

One important goal is to identify why people with kidney disease develop more rapid cardiovascular disease. With more than 10 years of support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), this group has enrolled patients in the large ongoing Chronic Renal Insufficiency Cohort (CRIC) Study, which continues to provide seminal observations explaining why people with kidney disease experience earlier and more rapid heart and kidney disease progression. There is also active research as to why people with kidney disease develop cerebrovascular disease, and whether exercise may remedy this problem.

Safe Kidney Care Study

Because patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) have special needs for their medical treatment, but these needs often are overlooked, unintended harm can result in hospitalization, more kidney problems, and even death. This study aims to help prevent acute medical injuries in patients with CKD by understanding the frequency with which these patients are exposed to injury-inducing medicines, tests or procedures. Additionally, the study will assess the efficacy of medical alert accessory in preventing patient safety events. Supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, the study began enrolling patients in Spring 2011.

Learn more about the study requirements:

Transplant Clinical Research Program

Despite many advances in kidney transplant science, research is needed to help improve the health and survival of both the transplant recipient and the transplanted organ. The Divisions of Nephrology and Transplantation actively collaborate on the majority of projects related to antibody-mediated transplant injury, non-traditional risk factors for poor transplant outcomes, and how to optimize immune-suppressing medications to improve long-term success.

Kidney donation is an essential part of transplantation today, yet determining the safety of donation for all potential living donors remains an area of ongoing research. The APOLLO Study is a NIDDK-funded effort to examine the outcome of kidneys donated by people with the two renal risk alleles for APOL1. Many different factors may influence donor risk for CKD, such as pre-donation levels of blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose. We are using sensitive techniques to measure these and other biomeasures of cardiovascular risk longitudinally over time to correlate with blood vessel injury and overall safety of donation.

We also have NIDDK funding to examine strategies to improve access for minorities to kidney donor evaluation, as well as an additional grant to understand barriers to re-transplantation and home dialysis in patients with failing kidney transplants.

We also have a large number of industry and investigator-initiated grants to evaluate immunosuppressive therapies and transplant diagnostic tests.