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Dr. Reena Rao's Lab

Reena Rao portrait in labReena Rao, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Medicine
Jared Grantham Kidney Institute
Nephrology and Hypertension & Cancer Center
Office Phone: 913 945 6885


BSc. - Catholicate College, Pathanamthitta, Kerala, India
MSc. - Vector Control Research Center, Pondicherry, India
MPhil. - University College, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India
Ph.D. - Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore, India
Post Doctoral Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN

Research Focus

1: Regulation of the cystic microenvironment in Polycystic Kidney Disease

Polycystic kidney disease (PKD), the most common inherited kidney disease is characterized by the growth and persistent expansion of renal cysts. Progressive renal fibrosis accompanies cyst growth, which leads to renal failure. However, the mechanism for the development of renal fibrosis in PKD is currently unclear and strategies for inhibiting fibrosis are lacking. The goal of our current studies is to determine the mechanism by which cystic epithelial cells modify their microenvironment to drive fibrosis and inflammation in PKD kidneys.

study results diagram

2: Mechanism of tubular regeneration and fibrosis after acute kidney injury

 graphic representation of a Tubular Epithelial CellAcute kidney injury (AKI) is characterized by abrupt loss of kidney function caused by injury to the renal tubules. The mechanisms underlying the complex pathophysiology of AKI involving injury and repair are incompletely understood. Our long-term goal is to develop an effective therapy to accelerate renal tubular regeneration after AKI and prevent fibrosis. Our current studies are focused on examining how renal interstitial myofibroblasts affect tubular epithelial regeneration after AKI.

3: Vasopressin Signaling -A Common Pathogenic Process in Polycystic Kidney Disease and Renal Cell Carcinoma (RCC)

images of rats from studyWe have novel evidence for the pathogenic role of vasopressin type- 2 receptor (V2R) signaling in RCC and the use of V2R antagonists, including the FDA-approved drug Tolvaptan, as a potential RCC therapy. Oncogene 2020, PMID: 31616061

US Patent application No. PCT/US2018/036326. Methods and Medicaments for the Treatment of Renal Cell Carcinoma.


Current Funding

  • NIH R01DK083525, ‘CTGF Induced Tubulointerstitial Crosstalk Regulates Fibrosis in PKD’. Reena Rao (PI)
  • NIH P30 PKD Center and Kansas University Cancer Center Pilot and Feasibility grant. ‘Vasopressin Signaling- a Common Pathogenic Process in Polycystic Kidney Disease and Renal Cell Carcinoma’. Reena Rao (PI)

Completed Grants

  • 2017-2019 NIH P30 PKD Center and Kansas University Cancer Center Pilot and Feasibility grant. ‘Vasopressin Signaling- a Common Pathogenic Process in Polycystic Kidney Disease and Renal Cell Carcinoma'. Reena Rao (PI)
  • 2016-2018- American Heart Association- Grant in Aid. ‘GSK3 -A Potential Drug Target to Prevent Renal Fibrosis After Acute Kidney Injury’. Reena Rao (PI)
  • 2016-2017- Kidney Institute Pilot and feasibility grant. ‘The Role of GSK3β in Tubular Repair and Development of Fibrosis Following AKI’. Reena Rao (PI)
  • 2014-2016- Diversity Supplement on RO1 DK083525 to support Postdoctoral Fellow Christianna Howard, Ph.D.
  • 2011-2016- RO1 DK083525, NIH/NIDDK. ‘Regulation of Renal Response to Vasopressin by Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3β’. Reena Rao (PI)
  • 2009-2011- Pilot and Feasibility Grant on NIH3P50DK044757-18S, ‘Glycogen synthase kinase as a potential drug target in acute kidney injury’. Reena Rao (PI)
  • 2007-2010- American Society of Nephrology- Carl W. Gottschalk Research Scholar Award. ‘Contribution of renal collecting duct sodium transport to metabolic syndrome'. Reena Rao (PI)
  • 2005-2007- American Heart Association- Beginning Grant-in-Aid. ‘Role of renal GSK3 in insulin resistance hypertension’. Reena Rao (PI)
  • 2003-2005- American Heart Association- Postdoctoral Fellowship Grant. ‘Determinants of renal interstitial cell survival following osmotic/diabetic stress’. Reena Rao (PI)

Current Lab Members

Nidhi portraitNidhi Dwivedi, Ph.D., American Heart Association Postdoctoral Fellow
Nidhi graduated from the Defense Research and Development Establishment in India. Her studies examine pathogenic mechanisms activated by vasopressin signaling in Polycystic Kidney Disease and Renal Cell Carcinoma. Her studies are funded by the American Heart Association Postdoctoral Fellowship grant.

Abeda JamadarAbeda Jamadar, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow
Abeda graduated from the University of York, UK. Her research interests include medicinal chemistry, cancer biology and kidney diseases. Currently, she is investigating tubular regeneration and fibrosis in acute kidney injury.

Sreenath Muraleedharan Suma, MSc, Research Assistant
Sreenath obtained his Master’s degree in Biotechnology from Vellore Institute of Technology, India. He performs in vitro and in vivo studies.


Sonali Sinha portraitSonali Sinha, Ph.D.
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, NY
Shixin Tao portraitShixin Tao, Ph.D.
Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, KS
Vijay Kakade portraitVijayakumar Kakade, Ph.D.
Yale School of Medicine, CT
Christiana Howard portraitChristiana Howard, Ph.D.
Langston University, OK
Sydney Webb portrait Sydney Webb, BS
Pankaj Pandey portraitPankaj Pandey, Ph.D.
Shilendra Singh portraitShilendra Singh, Ph.D.
Dhairya RavalDhairya Raval, BE, MS
Internal Medicine

University of Kansas Medical Center
Internal Medicine
Nephrology & Hypertension Division
Mailstop 1022
3901 Rainbow Boulevard
Kansas City, KS 66160

Nephrology Fellowship
Transplant Fellowship

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