Research Faculty

The major causes of kidney failure in the United States are: 1) High Blood Pressure - 25%; Diabetes Mellitus - 38%; and Glomerulonephritis - 15%

The immediate goal of kidney research at UCLA is to discover new mechanisms for the most common diseases associated with kidney failure (high blood pressure, diabetes, and glomerulonephritis) using state of the art laboratory techniques in order to prevent and treat these diseases in the future. The long-term vision is to decrease the need for dialysis and transplantation in the population.

abuladze

Natasha Abuladze, PhD
Associate Researcher

Contact Information
UCLA Division of Nephrology
7-155 Factor Building
700 Tiverton Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90095
310-206-6741 Phone
310-825-6309 Fax

Dr. Abuladze has been involved over the last decade in the cloning and expression of SLC4 transporters. Her experiments led to the discovery of the human membrane transporter NBCe1-B that plays an important role in most human organs. She played a key role in the discovery of the first electro neutral sodium bicarbonate co-transporter NBCn1, and the second electrogenic sodium bicarbonate co-transporter NBCe2. She participated in the large-scale expression of human SLC4 transporters in insect and yeast expression systems in order to perform their high-resolution structural characterization. She was involved in the crystal trials that have led to the first crystals of bacterial SbtA and mammalian AE1 and NBCe1-A. She participated in the purification of AE1, NBCe1-A and NBCn1 used by her team members for structural characterization using electron microscopy and 3D reconstruction approaches.

PubMed articles by Natasha Abuladze, PhD

bunnapradist

Suphamai (Michael) Bunnapradist, MD, MS
Professor of Medicine
Research Director, Renal Transplant Research

Contact Information
UCLA Division of Nephrology
1015 Gayley Ave, suite 220
Los Angeles, CA 90095
310-267-2555

Dr. Bunnapradist's research interests include outcomes registry analysis and clinical trials in kidney transplantation. His research focuses on the evaluation of immunosuppressants in transplantation, hepatitis in renal transplantation, and optimal organ utilization. He has published more than 130 papers, 200 abstracts and been the author of 6 book chapters on the topic of renal and/or liver transplantation. He has presented his research findings at numerous medical meetings and CME events and as an invited lecturer, and has published extensively in journals such as the American Journal of Transplantation, Annals of Academy of Medicine, International Journal of Artificial Organs, Gastroenterology Clinics of North America, and Transplantation.

Dr. Bunnapradist is a member of the International Society of Nephrology, United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS) National Committee for Organ Availability (Region 5 Representative), the American College of Physicians, the American Society of Nephrology, the American Society of Transplantation, and the National Kidney Foundation of Southern California. He has served on committees for the AST Clinical Research Advisory Council, the Steering Committee of the American Transplant Congress, and the UNOS Organ Availability Committee. He is also Associate Editor for the American Journal of Kidney Disease and on the editorial board for Nephrology Times and Renal and Urology News.

PubMed articles by Suphamai (Michael) Bunnapradist, MD, MS

kurtz

Ira Kurtz, MD, FRCP(C)
Chief, Division of Nephrology
Professor of Medicine
Factor Chair in Molecular Nephrology
Nephrology Advanced Research Training Program Director

Contact Information
UCLA Division of Nephrology
7-155 Factor Building
700 Tiverton Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90095
310-206-6741 Phone
310-825-6309 Fax

The Structure-Function of Ion Transporters in the Kidney

An estimated 75 million people in the Unites States have high blood pressure and approximately 30% are undiagnosed. High blood pressure is associated with the progression of all forms of renal failure and is a major cause of decline of kidney function in diabetics and other causes of kidney disease. The transport of specific ions by the kidney plays a key role in the development of high blood pressure which is a major cause of kidney functional impairment. The Kurtz lab is studying proteins in the kidney that will potentially lead to the development new treatments in the future for patients. The lab is focusing on the structure-function of two protein targets called NBCe1 and AE1 that play essential roles in both kidney ion transport and systemic acid-base chemistry. The structures of NBCe1 and AE1 are currently being investigated at low resolution and once their atomic structure is known, the lab will be in a position to develop novel drugs that can interact with and modulate their function. The long term goal is to modulate acid-base chemistry and salt transport in the kidney more effectively than is currently possible.

PubMed articles by Ira Kurtz, MD, FRCP(C)

nguyen

Minhtri Nguyen, MD
Clinical Professor of Medicine
Director, Consultative Nephrology

Contact Information
UCLA Division of Nephrology
7-155 Factor Building
700 Tiverton Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90095
310-206-6741 Phone
310-825-6309 Fax

Dr. Nguyen's research interests are in the area of fluid and electrolytes and acid-base physiology. He is particularly interested in disorders of sodium and water balance. His work has focused on defining the determinants of the plasma water sodium concentration as well as elucidating new quantitative approaches to the analysis and management of the dysnatremias. In addition, his research has also focused on deriving new quantitative approaches to the analysis of acid-base physiology.

PubMed articles by Minhtri Nguyen, MD

nicholas

Susanne B. Nicholas, MD, PhD
Associate Professor of Medicine

Contact Information
900 Veteran Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90095
310-794-7550 Phone

Dr. Nicholas is currently a tenured Associate Professor of Medicine at UCLA and a board certified Nephrologist participating in the Maintenance of Certification program, and a Clinical Hypertension Specialist. She has a joint appointment in the Division of Nephrology, where she maintains her clinical responsibilities, and the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Hypertension, where she conducts her research. She established a Technology core laboratory at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, funded by NIH/NIMHD to support research related to health disparities.

Dr. Nicholas' research interests are to: understand and identify key factors that promote the pathogenesis of diabetic kidney disease (DKD); uncover and validate novel biomarkers that may predict DKD progression; and to quantify renal structural changes associated with DKD in response to novel therapeutics, using stereology principles. Her research over the past 15+ years has led to the identification of a novel biomarker of DKD, which is being validated in clinical studies. She was a PI of the multi-institutional NIH/NIDDK funded study for susceptibility genes for diabetes and the linkage relationships to nephropathy and retinopathy in Mexican Americans and African Americans. She has established collaborations locally, nationally and internationally, is well published and has served on several federal and private foundation grant review committees. She has been an active volunteer for the National Kidney Foundation and has served as President of the Medical Advisory Board Executive Committee.

PubMed articles by Susanne B. Nicholas, MD, PhD

pushkin

Alexander Pushkin, PhD, D.SC
Adjunct Professor of Medicine

Contact Information
UCLA Division of Nephrology
7-155 Factor Building
700 Tiverton Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90095
310-206-6741 Phone
310-825-6309 Fax

Dr. Pushkin's long-term aim of his research is to develop new methods to treat human diseases based on the structural organization of disease related proteins. Towards this goal, his team has recently characterized by X-ray crystallography the atomic structure of aminoacylase 3, an enzyme involved in the nephrotoxicity of numerous environmental contaminants (PNAS, 107: 2010). This data is being used to predict the structures of potent and highly specific inhibitors of this enzyme to ameliorate the nephrotoxic effects of environmental contaminants. He played a key role in the identification of members of the SLC4 transporter family, and has also been part of Dr. Kurtz's team in the structural study of bicarbonate transporters using X-ray crystallography and cryoEM/ET. His team has recently generated crystals of full-length bovine AE1 and human NBCe1-A (2 bicarbonate SLC4 transporters), and a bacterial sodium bicarbonate cotransporter (SbtA). Given the increasing success of cryoEM/ET in the structural characterization of macromolecules at mid-near atomic resolution, we are also actively pursuing this promising methodology in our structural studies. One of the most difficult steps for the cryoEM/ET technique is in protein sample preparation. He has been spearheading the labs efforts with Dr. Kurtz and Dr. Quansheng Zhu and they have made great progress in optimizing the sample preparation for cryoEM/ET studies of membrane proteins.

PubMed articles by Alexander Pushkin, PhD, D.SC

rastogi

Anjay Rastogi, MD, PhD
Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine
Director, UCLA Dialysis and CKD Program
Medical Director, Living Kidney Donor Evaluation Program

Contact information
10630 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
310-954-2692 Phone

Dr. Rastogi's research team is involved with many clinical trials that help us towards a better understanding of how our kidneys function and guide us towards the cure for kidney disease. Clinical research helps us answer specific questions by evaluating the effectiveness and safety of new medications or medical devices by monitoring their effects on voluntary subjects. Subjects are usually divided into two groups. One group receives the placebo (not the experimental treatment) or the present standard treatment, while the other group receives the experimental treatment. We are participating in clinical research trials that deal with anemia, infections, secondary hyperphosphatemia, hypertension, polycystic kidney disease (PKD), Fabry disease, chronic kidney disease, diabetic nephropathy, secondary hyperparathyroidism, and focal segmental glomerulosclerosis.

Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) - PKD is an inherited (Autosomal Dominant) disease of the kidneys that results in cyst formation and their progressive enlargement over the years. As a consequence patients experience symptoms such as high blood pressure, flank/back pain, and blood in the urine.
Hypertension - Abnormal high blood pressure is one of the most common diseases, which over an extended period of time may lead to very unfavorable outcomes. Often times it is without symptoms and goes unnoticed or untreated. In the general population, hypertension is considered greater than 139 mmHg systolic pressure and greater than 89 mmHg diastolic pressure, whereas in Diabetes and Chronic Kidney Disease patients it is greater than 129 mmHg systolic pressure and greater than 79 mmHg diastolic pressure.
Fabry Disease - It is a rare inherited (X-linked) disease that is caused by dysfunctional metabolism of specific lipids called Sphingolipids and their abnormal storage in cellular structures around the body. It is often times misdiagnosed because of its rarity and the wide spectrum of nonspecific symptoms and complications such as fatigue, high blood pressure, and protein in the urine.
Anemia - Chronic Kidney Disease patients present with low oxygen carrying capacity by the red blood cells in the blood due to the absence of erythropoietin which is normally produced by the kidney cells. Anemia is a general symptom that may cause feeling of tiredness/fatigue.
Diabetic Nephropathy - In diabetic patients, it is the progressive damage that occurs in the kidneys due to high glucose levels in the blood which over time leads to progressive decline in kidney function to the point of Chronic Kidney Failure.
Clostridium Difficile (C-Diff) Infection - It is a diarrhea causing bacterial infection of the bowel that often time affects individuals who are on broad spectrum antibiotics for other unrelated infections and/or are hospitalized for an extended period.
Secondary Hyperphosphatemia - It is an elevated level of phosphate in the blood that is the result of a decline in kidney function.
Secondary Hyperparathyroidism - It is the intensified functioning of the parathyroid glands located in the neck secondary to an unrelated cause elsewhere in the body such as kidney failure. High parathyroid hormones in the circulation ultimately lead to high phosphorus levels in the blood and weakened bones.
Focal Segmental Glumerosclerosis (FSGS) - It is a complicated diseased state of the kidneys in which the filtering units called the glomeruli are fibrotic (scarred) focally throughout the kidneys.

waterman

Amy Waterman, PhD
Professor of Medicine
Director, Transplant Research and Education Center
Deputy Director, Terasaki Research Institute

Contact Information
UCLA Division of Nephrology

Administration/Clinical Research Office
1018 Westwood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90024
424-901-0408 Phone and Fax

Amy D. Waterman, PhD, is a national transplant innovator and a Professor in Residence at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) in the Division of Nephrology. She is Director of the Transplant Research and Education Center (TREC), the Deputy Director of the Terasaki Research Institute and a Senior Quality Researcher for the UCLA Kidney Transplant Program. Dr. Waterman is a Fellow of the American Society of Transplantation. She serves as Research Committee Chair for the National Kidney Registry and on the Women in Transplantation Committee of the Transplantation Society. In 2018, she received the ClearMark Award of Distinction from the Center for Plain Language for her digital application, My Transplant Coach, as well as a National Health Information Merit Award for two educational initiatives developed by Explore Transplant, a nonprofit consortium founded by Dr. Waterman.

Through her research and educational initiatives, Dr. Waterman seeks to 1) understand the critical, modifiable patient, provider, and system barriers to donation and 2) design interventions to overcome them. Dr. Waterman's research has been supported by over $25 million dollars in federal grants, and she has authored more than 100 research articles and book chapters. She has designed 13 educational programs to help patients and potential living donors make informed transplant decisions. These programs have been disseminated to patients in hundreds of dialysis and transplant settings in the United States, Canada, and South Africa, in multiple languages.

Dr. Waterman received her PhD in Social Psychology with an emphasis on patient education and behavior change from Washington University in St. Louis.

  • To learn more about Explore Transplant, click here
  • To learn more about the Terasaki Research Institute, click here
  • To make a donation by mail, please click here
  • To make an electronic donation, please click here

PubMed articles by Amy Waterman, PhD