Research begins to solve kidney anatomy enigma

November 22, 2017

Kidney health: new computer model will explain why lack of oxygen can cause serious problems.

A new project led by Murdoch University will shed fresh light on kidney physiology and potentially rewrite biology textbooks on how oxygen moves around the kidney.

Professor Bruce Gardiner and Dr Gerd Schröder-Turk from Murdoch University’s School of Engineering and IT will lead an Australian Research Council funded project worth nearly $393k over the next three years with a multidisciplinary team of anatomists, physiologists, physicists and mathematicians.

“Despite nearly 150 years of scientific investigation, the story of oxygen in the mammalian kidney remains a mystery,” Professor Gardiner said.

“We know that around 25 per cent of oxygenated blood from the heart is sent straight to the kidneys and yet kidneys are prone to injury stemming from a lack of oxygen.”

The team has begun the process of looking for a bottleneck in oxygen supply to the kidney, examining blood flow and oxygen transport through computational modelling, physiological studies and anatomical imaging.

The team will develop a 3D computer model of the kidney, right down to the densely woven tiny peri-tubular capillaries.

“We believe the lack of blood flow is a trade-off in the evolution of the kidney,” Professor Gardiner explained.

“We are interested in gaining more of an understanding about how evolution of the kidney allows it to perform its multiple functions while still allowing oxygen delivery to be reconciled with oxygen demand.

“This is a very delicate balance that can be affected by environmental stressors with major health consequences.

“This investigation could potentially rewrite the story of how oxygen moves around the kidney, which is an issue also of critical importance to kidney health.”

Researchers from Monash University and The University of Western Australia are also involved in the project.

Professor Gardiner was also successful in a second Australian Research Council Discovery Project this year on cartilage wear and lubrication. This second grant is administered by Melbourne University.

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