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History of Nephrology at KUMC

The University of Kansas has a rich legacy of discovery and innovation in the broad field of Nephrology. Early in the 20th century, Marshall Barber, Ph.D., a University of Kansas microbiologist, invented the glass micropipette and a micromanipulator that enabled him to capture a single bacterium from a broth culture. This may have been the first documented cloning experiment. Barber became the first to unequivocally substantiate Koch's theory of disease causation by injecting a single anthrax bacillus into an animal and reproducing the infection. In the middle of the century, Barber's pipette found even wider application in the study of kidney tubule physiology by A.N. Richards in Philadelphia and a host of others. Today, minor refinements of Barber's cloning pipette are routinely used to transfer DNA from one cell into another.

In 1939, Homer W. Smith, A.B., Sc.D., M.S., a renal physiologist in the New York University College of Medicine, delivered a series of lectures at the University of Kansas that later became the foundation of his popular book entitled "From Fish to Philosopher". In this book he elucidated the extraordinary parallels between the evolution of the kidney from proto-vertebrates to man and the development of the kidney in the embryos of all mammals. (Porter Lectures Series IX, Studies in the Physiology of the Kidney, Lawrence, KS)

Barber and Smith's gigantic contributions on Kansas soil languished until 1952 when Paul R. Schloerb, M.D., (Surgery) became the first full-time Kansas University Medical Center faculty member to research fluid and electrolyte metabolism and devise treatments for renal disorders.  He introduced Kansas to hemodialysis for the treatment of acute renal failure; he also initiated pace-setting studies in humans and laboratory animals aimed at treating a variety of renal disorders. Schloerb was joined in the community by Harry Statland, M.D., (Clinical Medicine), a student of fluid and electrolyte abnormalities and author of a popular textbook entitled "Fluid and Electrolytes in Practice".

Lawrence Sullivan, Ph.D., (Physiology) introduced to KUMC the first modern studies of renal tubular function in 1964 and was joined one year later by Darrell Fanestil, M.D., the first director of Nephrology, who introduced Kansas to chronic dialysis and transplantation. Dr. Sullivan organized a Friday Morning Renal Physiology Journal Club that thrives today as the L.P. Sullivan Renal Research Seminar. In 1969, Jared Grantham, M.D., Donald Tucker, M.D., and Dennis Diederich, M.D., joined the Nephrology Division in the Department of Internal Medicine.  Dr. Fanestil moved to the University of California-San Diego a year later, and Dr. Grantham became director of the Division of Nephrology at KUMC.

Billy Hudson, Ph.D., (Biochemistry) began collaborative studies focused on determining the molecular structure of the biomatrix in the 1970s. Frederick Whittier, M.D., (Medicine) and Donald Cross, M.D., (Medicine) joined the KU Nephrology Section at the Kansas City Veterans Hospital and founded the Midwest Organ Bank, the region's first kidney retrieval facility, known today as The Midwest Transplant Network. They were joined at the KCVAH by Barbara McDougal, M.D., (Medicine) and a few years later by Margaret MacDougall, M.D., Ph.D., (Medicine). Virginia Savin, M.D., (Medicine) introduced home peritoneal dialysis to the KU campus and invented a new method to measure glomerular filtration function in vitroThomas Weigmann, M.D., (Medicine) joined the Nephrology Section at the VA Hospital and collaborated with Dr. Diederich to invent a novel method for anti-coagulating the blood of patients undergoing hemodialysis.  Arnold M. Chonko, M.D., (Medicine) established an in vitro micro-perfused tubule laboratory where he determined the mechanisms of organic anion secretion.  Francis E. Cuppage, M.D., (Pathology) joined forces with Dr. Grantham to investigate the microscopic structure of renal cysts. James Calvet, Ph.D., (Biochemistry) and Benjamin Cowley Jr. M.D., (Medicine) collaborated to study the influence of growth-promoting genes on polycystic kidney disease. Franz T. Winklhofer, M.D., (Medicine) became the Director of the Polycystic Kidney Clinical Services. 

Dale Abrahamson, Ph.D., became chairman of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology in 1998 continuing his research on glomerular development and function. Tom DuBose, M.D., served as chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine from 2000-2003 and continued his research on proton transport in the collecting duct. His recruitment and that of Dr. Abrahamson were instrumental in achieving, with Drs. Hudson and Grantham, the critical mass to establish The Kidney Institute in 2000. 

Darryl Quarles, M.D., (Medicine) served as Director of Nephrology and Director of the Kidney Institute 2004-2010, and with Peter Rowe, Ph.D., (Medicine), introduced bone and mineral research questions to the KI research portfolio. Alan S.L. Yu, M.B., B.Chir. (Medicine), a physician-scientist known for his research in paracellular epithelial ion transport,  joined the KUMC faculty in June 2011 as director of Nephrology and the third director of the Kidney Institute. 

The Kidney Institute at University of Kansas Medical Center

The Kidney Institute is a magnificent collection of scholars and trainees pursuing research programs in polycystic kidney diseases, progressive renal diseases including diabetic nephropathy and Alport Syndrome, and disorders of kidney development and metabolism. The institute is comprised of 42 collaborating faculty and over 100 research associates, graduate students, fellows and support staff . The Kidney Institute has more than $6 million per year in NIH research funding.

The future of the Kidney Institute

The Kidney Institute is a model of interactive research by talented, imaginative and successful scientists and clinicians who work toward a common goal of excellence in renal research and patient care.  In 2015, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at the NIH awarded the Kansas PKD Center a five-year Center Grant (P30) that provides $5.4 million in funding to support our innovative biomedical research cores and a robust pilot and feasibility program. In 2020, the P30 cores transitioned to a U54 program that provides $4.4 million over 5 years to promote PKD research by providing essential reagents, biomaterials, and service to the PKD research community.  The Kidney Institute is positioned to grow with the addition of exceptionally talented clinicians and researchers who will flourish in this strong growth environment.

KU School of Medicine

University of Kansas Medical Center
The Jared Grantham Kidney Institute
Mail Stop 3018
3901 Rainbow Boulevard
Kansas City, KS 66160