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Tools of the trade: Applying Basic Science Approaches to Decode Renal Structure and Function

By Mira Krendel posted 09-14-2018 03:11 PM


Once again, an exciting Kidney Week is fast approaching!  As always, this meeting offers many opportunities to catch up on the latest developments in basic science and its translational applications. This year, the excitement starts early, with the Advances in Research Conference on “-Omics, Organoids, and Organs-on-Chips” that will take place during the Early Program, preceding the main meeting. Organoids and engineered organs offer many possibilities for studying renal development and testing disease-mediating mechanisms and potential therapies. This pre-meeting, led by the two leaders in the field, Melissa Little, PhD and Jonathan Himmelfarb, MD, FASN and featuring many outstanding speakers, will cover a variety of topics, including: a discussion of whether organoids faithfully reproduce properties of the adult kidneys, how they can be used to test new treatment approaches, and recent advances in inducing iPSCs to differentiate into specific kidney cell types. The early program requires separate registration.

In the past few years, basic and translational nephrology researchers have adopted state-of-the-art tools developed by scientists in many other fields, including red_cell.jpgbiophysics, bioengineering, computational and systems biology, and a variety of -omics sciences (proteomic, transcriptomic, and genomic studies).  This year, the basic science presentations at Kidney Week will once again highlight recent research advances in the understanding of kidney disease made possible by these novel techniques. In addition, the meeting features plenary talks by some of the key leaders in the fields that brought us these exciting new tools.

 These state-of-the-art plenary lectures include a talk by Eric Betzig, PhD on “Imaging Cellular Structure and Dynamics from Molecules to Organisms” on Thursday, October 25, at 8:50 AM and a presentation by Aviv Regev, PhD on "Cell Atlases as Roadmaps to Human Disease" on Friday, October 26, at 8:50 AM.

  •  Eric Betzig, along with Stefan Hell, PhD and William Moerner, PhD, have received the Nobel prize in Chemistry for developing techniques to overcome the limit of resolution for light microscopes. These super-resolution microscopy techniques are now used to examine minute structures including individual podocyte foot processes and slit diaphragms, bridging the divide between light and electron microscopy. In addition to the super-resolution PALM microscopy, Betzig has created a new approach for imaging cells and tissues live and in three dimensions, called lattice light sheet microscopy, so prepare to be dazzled by amazing images during his talk!
  •  Computational systems biologist Aviv Regev has done pioneering work in the area of single-cell RNA sequencing to determine the transcriptional profiles of individual cells in the immune and nervous systems. Now she is involved in an effort to build a human cell atlas, aiming to map the transcriptome of every cell in the human body.

Several sessions during the meeting will highlight new applications of modern molecular and computational biology tools in deciphering kidney disease mechanisms. These include a session titled “Patient Stratification for Molecular Targeted Therapies in Nephrotic Syndrome: Ready for Action?”, Thursday, October 25,  at 4:30 PM, which will discuss how computational approaches, genetic studies, and structure-function analysis can inform patient treatment in glomerular diseases. “Emerging Technologies and Molecular Blueprint of Kidney Cells and Segments in Health and Disease”, Friday at 2 PM, will examine how a combination of genetic, epigenetic, and transcriptomic analytic approaches can reveal cell identities and developmental programs in the kidney.

Basic science research often brings us insights into the structure of proteins, cells, and tissues, which, in turn, allow better understanding of their functional properties. These structure-function relationships and their importance in developing new therapies for kidney disease are highlighted in several sessions, including “Glomerular Basement Membranes: From Function to Dysfunction” and “New Progress in Cilia Biology and Ciliopathies”, on Thursday, October 25, at 2 PM, “Polycystins: Structure and Function”, and “Podocyte Adhesion Nexus: Intricate Interplay of Cytoskeleton, Adhesion Receptors, and the Glomerular Basement Membrane”, on Saturday, October 27, at 2 PM.

green_cell.jpgAnother great example of how studying protein structure can inform development of new therapeutics comes from the work of Amin Arnaout, MD, FASN, this year’s recipient of the Homer W. Smith award, who has uncovered the structural properties of integrins that allowed development of new integrin-targeting drugs. Dr. Arnaout’s talk and Homer W. Smith award presentation will take place at the Friday Plenary session at 8:15 AM.

To round out the schedule, two basic science sessions on the last day of the meeting, Sunday, at 10 AM, will cover topics that have recently garnered renewed attention in the kidney field, including cell-derived extracellular vesicles (“Extracellular Vesicles in Kidney Diseases: From Trash to Treasure”) and protein and organelle homeostasis and degradation (“Proteostasis: New Roads to Understanding Glomerular Disease Progression”).

Please do not forget to join us for one of the exciting Basic Science Poster tours.  You can see the full schedule here: Lounge Schedule
I'll be participating in the tour that will take place on Friday, October 26th at 11:00.  We'll be meeting at the ASN Communities Lounge in the middle of the Exhibit Floor.   I hope to meet many of you there. 


About the Author: 
Mira Krendel is the Principal Investigator at the Krendel Lab in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY.