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Biomedical Research

Research efforts within the Division of Anatomy focus on the normal development and pathogenesis of the urogenital system. Urinary tract malformations, obstructive nephropathy, and renal hypoplasia/dysplasia comprise over 50% of the children with end-stage renal disease worldwide. These defects are extremely important in the terms of health care costs, with end-stage renal disease costing 1.5 billion dollars annually. The Division of Anatomy biomedical research program is based in the laboratory of Dr. Kirk M. McHugh, Professor and Director of Anatomy. Dr. McHugh is a classically trained anatomist and developmental biologist whose research efforts over the past 25 years have focused on the development and pathogenesis of the gastrointestinal and urinary tracts. Dr. McHugh has had continuous NIH funding throughout his research career and his current research efforts focus on congenital defects in bladder development and the resulting sequelae associated with obstructive nephropathy and chronic kidney disease (CKD). His work has identified a highly unique mouse model known as the megabladder (mgb) that represents the first animal model of congenital obstructive nephropathy. Dr. McHugh’s lab uses a wide range of genetic and molecular approaches to study the pathogenic changes in renal function in mgb mice. These studies have lead to the development of a novel model of renal adaptation during CKD that involves the integrated balance between TGF-mediated pathogenesis, retinoic acid mediated remodeling/repair and steroid hormone modulation. In addition, recent studies in Dr. McHugh’s lab have begun to characterize the complex phenotype associated with Uroplakin1b knockout mice. These animals show altered urothelial morphology and UTI susceptibility as well as duplicated urinary tracts and the development of spontaneous hydronephrosis. This work has identified the renothelium as a key player in kidney development and pathogenesis, and studies are currently underway to elucidate its precise role in these processes.


Dr. McHugh’s research laboratories are located at Nationwide Children’s Hospital (NCH), where he serves as the Director of the Nephrology and Urology Research Affinity Group (NURAG). The primary mission of the NURAG is to enhance the health of children with diseases of the kidney and urinary tract by engaging in high quality, cutting-edge translational research. NURAG is composed of the entire medical faculty, residents and fellows comprising the Divisions of Pediatric Nephrology (http://www.nationwidechildrens.org/nephrology) and Pediatric Urology (http://www.nationwidechildrens.org/urology) at NCH, as well as individual faculty and staff within The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital whose research projects focus on the fields of urinary tract development and disease. Over the past decade, NURAG has created a highly productive research program where physicians and basic scientists actively collaborate on cutting-edge translational research to enhance the health of children with diseases of the kidney and urinary tract. The success of this highly unique program is evidenced by the fact that the Divisions of Pediatric Nephrology and Pediatric Urology at NCH have been ranked in the top-ten nationally over the past 4 years (US World & News Report).