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Research Program

Pediatric Nephrology at UCLA is committed to training postdoctoral clinicians and researchers in innovative basic, clinical, laboratory- and population-based, and health services research. Training future leaders and researchers in the field of Pediatric Nephrology and aligned disciplines is both improving our knowledge of pediatric kidney disease as well as improving treatment, outcomes, and overall quality of life in children and adults with chronic renal and urinary tract disorders. 

Over the past three decades, the Division has achieved a number of research milestones that have fundamentally affected medical practice in the field of Pediatric Nephrology. The nutritional status of children treated with peritoneal dialysis was characterized at UCLA and this work provided the evidence base for the nutritional recommendations in children treated with dialysis. The Division was the first to undertake studies proving that recombinant human growth hormone significantly improves growth in children with CKD. Also, the division was among the first pediatric nephrology groups to study the use of erythropoietin in children on dialysis.

Similarly, the Division established one of North America's largest and most successful kidney transplant programs. Dr. Ettenger, the Director of the transplant program, began his career by performing a series of histocompatibility studies that clarified the appropriate laboratory studies needed to define safe transplantation in children and adults with false-positive lymphocyte cross-matches.  Many currently used immunosuppressive agents were developed by Dr. Ettenger and colleagues. 

The Division also gained international recognition in the study of alterations of bone and mineral metabolism associated with CKD, including groundbreaking research on vascular calcification. Dr. Salusky and his associates were the first to describe adynamic bone disease unrelated to aluminum accumulation, to identify the role of calcium intake with coronary artery calcifications in children and young adults treated with dialysis, and to define target PTH levels according to CKD stage. His work has provided the evidence base for the current guidelines on diagnosis and treatment of CKD-MBD.

Ground-breaking work in areas of transplantation, bone and mineral metabolism, and anemia continues.  Dr. Tsai, Assistant Professor in the Division, is actively involved in defining the role of intra-graft B-cells in acute rejection as well as the role of fibroblast growth factor 23 (FGF23) in vascular rejection.

Dr. Salusky and Dr. Wesseling-Perry, Assistant Professor in the Division, have been at the forefront of the study of the role of FGF23 in the pathogenesis and treatment of CKD-MBD and have been the first researchers to demonstrate the crucial role of osteocyte dysfunction in renal osteodystrophy. Further pioneering work includes the role of hepcidin in the anemia of CKD as well as FGF23 in CKD-MBD, acute kidney injury, and renal transplantation.

Dr. Yadin, a professor in the division, is the PI on several multicenter studies including CKiD, the largest North American study of growth, cardiovascular disease, neurocognitive development and other aspects of  CKD in children, and the use of an IV iron preparation in anemic children with CKD. 

Today, the Division has 7 faculty on the main UCLA medical campus (3 professors and 4 assistant professors, 1 of whom is a PhD scientist with expertise in bone biology), all with active research agendas.