Updates from the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension

The below is a post from Chou-Long Huang, MD, PhD, director of the division of Nephrology and Hypertension.

kidney transplantWith approximately 140 transplants a year, our transplant team continues to deliver first-rate kidney and combined kidney-pancreas transplants both at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC) and at the Iowa City VA Medical Center.  The nephrologists leading this effort are Drs. Christie Thomas, Sarat Kuppachi, Medical Director and Associate Medical Director of the Program at UIHC, and Lee Sanders, Medical Director of the Iowa City VA Transplant Program. The team also includes Dr. Mony Fraer and new recruits Drs. Melissa Swee and Masaaki Yamada.

An important recent focus in our division is to improve access to outpatient clinics and to expand our chronic kidney disease clinics and dialysis programs to serve patients with kidney disease at all stages. In our state with a large rural population, Drs. Becky Hegeman, Doug Somers, Mony Fraer, Lisa Antes, Lama Noureddine, and Elizabeth Kuo, and ARNP Dawn Allen are among those working on expanding our outreach and home dialysis program to serve Iowans in all communities.

Fellows and an exceptional education program are the pipeline to continued excellent patient care and medical discovery at Iowa. Fellows are invited to broaden their learning and clinical experience daily with challenging cases in all fields of clinical nephrology, dialysis, and transplantation.

AntesSunejaThe need for nephrologists nationwide and in Iowa continues to increase. Thanks to the excellent leadership of Dr. Antes, fellowship program director, and Dr. Manish Suneja, the Internal Medicine residency program director, we are pleased to announce that our fellowship program is expanding to 6 fellow positions. We are seeing an increasing interest from our own residents in pursuing nephrology. Many have applied and been accepted into our program. Many more have expressed an interest in a future career in clinical and investigative nephrology. The division has an NIH-funded institutional T32 training grant, currently in its 26th year, to support trainees in a broad area of renal- and hypertension-related research. Selected individuals on the investigative training track will be considered for support by the division to earn a Master’s in Clinical and Translational Science during training.

Like any discipline in medicine, research in nephrology is essential to our future in caring for our patients. With generous gifts provided by the Hills family, Drs. Thomas, Noureddine, Massimo Attanasio, and I have formed a polycystic kidney disease (PKD) program at UIHC. The program includes a specialized PKD clinic that will integrate new knowledge into patient care and allow patients to participate in leading clinical trials. Other missions of the UIHC PKD program include providing genetic screening, understanding its pathogenesis, and developing an innovative gene therapy strategy.

ThomasArmstrongThe division has also established one of the only Renal Genetic Programs in the country. Dr. Thomas and Maggie Armstrong, genetic counselor, diagnose and treat several rare genetic kidney diseases at the Renal Genetics Clinic. Together with the Iowa Institute of Human Genetics, they have launched a comprehensive renal genetics panel, KidneySeq, that includes more than 250 renal disease genes corresponding to over 75 different renal phenotypes. They work collaboratively with their colleagues in the divisions of pediatric nephrology and genetics to care for patients with genetic diseases of all ages and to screen family members at risk of inherited kidney disease.

researchBasic research in Dr. Attanasio’s lab will shed light on the genetics of kidney diseases as well as mechanisms and potential treatments for kidney injury and fibrosis. Research in the lab of physician-scientist Dr. Jon Nizar, who recently joined us from Stanford University, will enhance our understanding of the mechanism of hypertension in diabetes patients. Research in my lab focuses on the brain-kidney crosstalk, anti-aging protein Klotho, and gene therapy strategy for PKD.

Clinical research in the division has a refreshing new look under the leadership of Drs. Diana Jalal and Brad Dixon. NIH-funded research led by Dr. Jalal investigates vascular endothelial dysfunction in CKD patients. In collaboration with VA’s CADRE program, renal faculty including Drs. Dixon, Jalal, and Swee, and incoming new faculty Dr. Yamada and Dr. Benjamin Griffin will take on many important health-service research questions in nephrology. These new endeavors may provide knowledge to shape future health service delivery to people with a variety of kidney-related concerns.

We see that the future of our division is to continue to grow in all three missions. High-quality care and improved access for our patients are of foremost importance. Training young nephrologists and advancing new knowledge through research are the cornerstones of our future. We welcome all interested and bright minds to join.



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