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Past, Present & Future of Kidney Research: Highlights from our Conversation with Dr. Mehrotra


As the primary conveners of the kidney community throughout the Pacific Northwest, the Northwest Kidney Council hosts a series of council meetings with our partners from Oregon and Washington that provide an opportunity to discuss the latest updates from our various organizations and hear from a guest speaker.

In late May, we hosted Dr. Rajnish Mehrotra, the division head of the Department of Nephrology at the University of Washington. Dr. Mehrotra has been in the role since last fall and shared with us some of the fascinating history of Seattle’s leading role in kidney care innovation, what’s currently being researched at the university and the Kidney Research Institute and discussed the importance of data informing future public policy discussions.


Honoring a Legacy of Innovation


Dr. Mehrotra’s role at the university is the same position held at one point by Belding Scribner, the inventor of the Scribner Shunt. The invention was transformative for patients on dialysis because it allowed easier access to the bloodstream. Before that time, patients couldn’t be on long-term dialysis because their veins became so damaged.


“The first outpatient dialysis unit was established in Seattle,” Mehrotra said. “Belding Scribner used to live on a houseboat across Lake Union, and he used to row his boat to come to this office… it's a historic legacy.”


More than 40 Projects Underway at the Kidney Research Institute


Dr. Mehrotra also provided an overview of a nationwide study funded by the National Institute of Health, led out of Seattle: the Kidney Precision Medicine Project (KPMP).


“Somebody has diabetes, and diabetes affects the kidneys,” Mehrotra explained. “We assume that there's one pathway of injury. That there's one way of treating anyone that had kidney disease from diabetes. But the premise here is that there are different mechanisms for injury in different people.”


This project is one of more than 40 underway right now at the Kidney Research Institute (housed within the university). Now, five years in, the team is beginning to understand how best to treat people based on their unique situations and individual biology.


Letting Data Lead the Way Forward


As kidney treatment costs continue to rise, and options expand, it will be critical that decisionmakers look to the most recent data to make informed decisions about kidney care. Effective public policy has a greater chance of yielding more equal outcomes if it’s fact-based.


“[The Federal Register] for example, routinely cites the work that we have done in demonstrating equal outcomes between in-center and peritoneal dialysis,” Mehrotra said, as an example. “You cannot have public policy where you're promoting a therapy that may not be good. That is a nonstarter.”


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You can view the full recording of the meeting with Dr. Mehrotra below, including a fascinating Q&A session with our partners in attendance. If you’re interested in learning more about the Northwest Kidney Council or attending our next council meeting, sign up for the latest news here.