Nephrology Research 

The UNM Division of Nephrology focuses on excellence in clinical, translational and basic science research. This research takes place in the two institutes affiliated with Nephrology (KINM and CHEK-D), labs and groups within the division and nephrology faculty investigators at the University and the Albuquerque VA.

Our outstanding faculty conduct numerous research projects, with a special emphasis on mechanisms of rare kidney diseases, clinical outcomes among patients with renal disorders, biomarker discovery, data science in nephrology, and the unique challenges of chronic kidney disease care in the state of New Mexico. In addition, Division faculty serve as site investigators for investigational agents and devices across numerous Phase 1 – 3 industry sponsored trials. 

This research edge provides a unique opportunities for students, residents, and fellows to take part in groundbreaking studies and help which may ultimately lead to the development of novel treatments and diagnostics for patients with kidney diseases. A summary of the research projects by group/site within the division is found below. 

Clinical Research at the University of New Mexico

Current clinical research topics for UNM faculty span the spectrum of observational studies to randomized controlled trials and include:  

  • American Indian Chronic Renal Insufficiency Cohort Study (AI-CRIC Study) (Unruh/Shah) 
  • Cognitive and Behavioral therapy and Health Education for Pain, Depression and Fatigue in patients receiving maintenance hemodialysis (Unruh, Roumelioti) 
  • Validation of biomarkers of residual renal function in patients receiving hemodialysis (Roumelioti and Argyropoulos) 
  • Cognitive and Behavioral Therapy vs Pharmacotherapy in Insomnia associated with Dialysis (Unruh and Roumelioti) 
  • Registry of Glomerular and Rare Diseases in New Mexico (Shaffi) 
  • Predictors of re-hospitalization among patients receiving inpatient dialysis (Chong) 
  • Risk calculator to inform acceptance of organ offers by transplant nephrologists (Kataria/Chen/Argyropoulos) 
  • Community Based Research of the Epidemiology of Chronic Kidney Disease in Rural New Mexico (Argyropoulos/Roumelioti/Shaffi/Unruh/Myaskovsky) 
  • Outcomes of breast cancer among patients with End Stage Renal Disease (Roumelioti/Unruh/Argyropoulos/Hill) 
  • Lung Water Ultrasound Assessment of Hydration Status in Peritoneal Dialysis (Roumelioti/Xu/Argyropoulos) 
  • COVID 19 in Transplant Recipients (P Singh, Kataria) 
  • Improving Healthcare Outcomes in American Indian and Hispanic Transplant Recipients Using Culturally-Tailored Novel Technology (IMPACT) (Myaskovsky, Unruh, P Singh) 

Clinical Research at the CHEK-D institute

Larissa Myaskovsky, PhD. Nila S. Judd, BA, CCRP. Samuel Swift, PhD. Yuridia Leyva, MS. Claudia Rice, BPH. CHEK-D is focused on developing and supporting scientists and clinicians in basic, clinical, and translational research to reduce and eliminate disparities in health processes and outcomes related to kidney disease. We partner with dedicated faculty, staff, and community leaders on projects to increase healthcare equity in underserved, diverse populations. We align our vision with UNM HSC’s mission for equity and quality improvement by expanding kidney disease clinical treatment options for vulnerable groups. We are also committed to strengthening the UNM HSC’s internal research infrastructure through campus-wide collaboration, professional development, and developing a pipeline of minority trainees through undergraduate, graduate, medical education, and early career faculty.

Current CHEK-D Research: 

  • Examining how social determinants of health contribute to race disparities in kidney transplantation 
  • Determining predictors of kidney transplant clinic no-shows 
  • Determining predictors of post-transplant non-adherence 
  • Examining the effect of consuming subsidized-commodity 
  • foods (corn, wheat, dairy, livestock, sorgum and soybeans) on kidney disease incidence and progression 
  • culturally-tailored intervention to improve health behavior in kidney transplant recipients 
  • A hospital-based intervention to increase access to kidney transplantation for minority populations 
  • A kidney ECHO intervention to help primary care providers slow kidney disease progression 
  • An mHealth intervention to improve kidney disease patients’: adherence; patient-provider communication; care satisfaction; quality of life; and, health outcomes 
  • A dialysis clinic-based intervention to increase the number of vulnerable patients being evaluated for kidney transplant 
  • Evaluating the influence of neighborhood-built environment (walkability, food environment, and racial segregation) on race disparities in kidney disease

Basic and Translational Research at the University of New Mexico (Soleimani Lab)

The research in Soleimani’s laboratory spans over 34 years and currently focuses on four major areas: electrolyte and acid base transporters, pathogenesis of ischemia-reperfusion injury, tuberous sclerosis and more recently the pathogenesis of Acute Kidney Injury in COVID19 infection.  

  • Cloning and characterization of acid base and electrolyte transporters. One area of research in the lab is devoted to the characterization and identification of transporters and molecules responsible for electrolyte and acid-base transport, as well as blood pressure control, with the ultimate goal of ascertaining their role in health and disease states. We were the first lab to clone the mammalian kidney sodium bicarbonate cotransporter NBC1 in 1997.  In addition, we have characterized the localization, function and role of several members of the anion transporter SLC26 family in kidney function and systemic vascular volume homeostasis, including SLC26A4 (pendrin), SLC26A6 and SLC26A11.  
  • Identification of novel genes that play critical roles in the pathogenesis of ischemic reperfusion or nephrotoxic injury in the kidney and liver. The second major area of research in the lab focuses on identification and characterization of molecules that play a critical role in the pathogenesis of kidney or liver damage in ischemia reperfusion (I/R), septic or toxic injury.   
  • Pathogenesis of kidney cyst formation in tuberous sclerosis complex. Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is an autosomal dominant disorder caused by mutations in either the TSC1 or TSC2 genes, which encode hamartin or tuberin, respectively. TSC renal disease is specifically characterized by the development and continuous enlargement of benign tumors (angiomyolipomata) and renal cysts, which eventually result in the decline of kidney function. Very recent studies in our lab demonstrate that inactivation of carbonic anhydrase 2 or the transcription factor FOXi1 plays key roles in cyst formation in TSC. 
  • Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) in COVID-19 infection. Very recent studies in our lab focus on the pathogenesis of acute kidney injury in COVID-19 infection. Studies have shown a high incidence of AKI in patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection and increased mortality as a result.  Patients with pre-existing kidney disease (chronic kidney disease; CKD) are also at increased risk of developing AKI and mortality during COVID-19 infection. Our recent studies center on investigating the hypothesis that SARS-CoV-2 directly attacks the kidney proximal tubule cells through the ACE2 receptor which can lead to kidney damage and failure.