National Kidney Month 2022: A Conversation with Jane Wang, MD and Peder Larson, PhD

This example shows metabolism in the kidneys of a healthy human subject.

March is National Kidney Month, a time to raise awareness and focus on research and building paths for better kidney care. Here in the U.S., 37 million people are estimated to have chronic kidney disease (CKD), making this a major public health problem. UCSF Medical Center is a top 10 hospital in the nation and the best in Northern California for kidney care and each of its locations treats a large number of patients with kidney disease, including CKD such as from diabetes, hypertension, and other etiologies of nephropathy. The UCSF Connie Frank Transplant Center serves as a top kidney transplant center in the country and cares for patients with end-stage kidney disease needing transplant.

Headshot of Jane Wang, MDHere in the Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging, we’d also like to highlight innovative research that will clinically translate to better kidney care. Zhen Jane Wang, MD, abdominal imaging physician, professor and associate chair of strategic planning, focuses her research on identifying novel imaging techniques and developing them into practical, useful diagnostic tools. Dr. Wang’s research program includes using hyperpolarized (HP) 13C metabolic MRI – an advanced imaging technique – to assess kidney tumor aggressiveness and diffuse kidney disease.

“Current standard-of-care imaging is used to diagnose reversible etiologies of kidney disease such as obstruction due to stone disease. Current imaging has limitations in accurately monitoring kidney disease progression,” says Dr. Wang. “Improved noninvasive methods for monitoring kidney injury are critical to allow early identification of subclinical injury, and to guide appropriate intervention.”

Dr. Wang collaborates with Peder Larson, PhD, associate professor and the director of Body Research Group at UCSF Radiology and Biomedical Imaging. They are co-leading a new study focused on developing a novel kidney metabolic imaging tool based on the emerging hyperpolarized 13C MRI. This project was recently awarded an R21 grant (R21DK130002) from the National Institute of Health (NIH) , and supported by the Hyperpolarized MRI Technology Resource Center (HMTRC).

Headshot of Peder Larson, PhD“Our goal is to develop hyperpolarized 13C MRI for non-invasive interrogation of kidney energy metabolism as a biomarker of kidney injury,” says Dr. Wang.

“Our project includes developing new ways of manipulating the MRI scanners and deriving biologically-inspired maps of metabolism, which we will test directly in humans. I am very optimistic that this technology will allow us to better understand  the role of energy metabolism in kidney disease and improve its timely diagnosis and therapy monitoring,” says Dr. Larson.

The HMTRC at UCSF is a Biomedical Resource Technology Center funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) (P41EB013598). Learn more about the projects supported by the center.

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