News & Announcements

Study reveals non-invasive warning sign of kidney disease progression  Findings by University of Michigan, colleagues and partners could lead to earlier detection for millions at risk for chronic kidney disease progression
"University of Michigan researchers have identified an accessible, non-invasive way to identify patients at risk for progression of kidney disease. Together with the European Renal cDNA Bank and the Joint Institute for Translational and Clinical Research (a collaboration between Peking University Health Sciences Center and U-M), the U-M team found a simple, new test to identify one of the nation’s fastest growing chronic illnesses. Chronic kidney disease is a condition in which damaged kidneys cannot filter blood as well as healthy kidneys. Currently, it is estimated that over 10 million individuals suffer from chronic kidney disease, with the number of those affected continuing to rise. A U-M team led by nephrologist Matthias Kretzler, M.D., renal systems biologist Wenjun Ju, Ph.D., M.S., and bioinformatician Viji Nair, M.S., has discovered a simple test to identify patients at risk for chronic kidney disease by measuring a specific molecule in a routine urine sample. This molecule, a protein called epidermal growth factor, indicates whether the patient is at risk of end-stage kidney disease. End-stage kidney disease means an affected individual’s kidneys can no longer meet their body’s need to remove waste. A decrease in urinary epidermal growth factor protein is an early sign of diminishing kidney function and pinpoints the at-risk patient population. While not all patients with chronic kidney disease will progress to end-stage kidney disease, those that do tend to advance quickly and require dialysis or kidney transplant. They are also at an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease. “Early identification of patients more likely to experience end-stage kidney disease is an urgent, unmet clinical need,” Kretzler says. “Right now, kidney biopsy, which involves removing a tiny sample of kidney tissue, is the standard technique used to assess kidney disease. This procedure is costly, carries a low, but significant health risk, and has limited ability to predict the future course of kidney disease.” The international research team identified epidermal growth factor as a molecule of interest in kidney disease while analyzing kidney tissue biopsies from chronic kidney disease patients across Europe and the U.S. The researchers then validated the findings in urine samples from more than 940 patients in North America, Europe and China. The research, published in Science Translational Medicine, linked decreased epidermal growth factor levels in urine to worsening kidney disease. In fact, patients with low urinary epidermal growth factor were four times more likely to worsen than those who retained epidermal growth factor function in their kidneys. “Urinary epidermal growth factor can help patients in two very important ways,” Kretzler says. “First, in clinical practice, it could be used to prioritize care to those patients most at risk of losing their kidney function.” “Second and more immediately, using urinary epidermal growth factor levels will improve and speed up clinical trials,” he adds. “Enrolling only those likely to develop specific disease endpoints can reduce the number of people needing study and ensure the trial achieves an optimal mix of patients.” The researchers note urinary epidermal growth factor has the potential to reduce trial costs by as much as 75 percent, as well as shorten the time until a medicine is widely available to all patients. According to the International Society of Nephrology, treatment of chronic kidney disease, including medical management, dialysis and kidney transplant, is very costly. In the U.S. alone, therapy for chronic kidney disease is likely to exceed $48 billion per year, and the end-stage kidney disease program consumes 6.7 percent of the total Medicare budget to care for less than 1 percent of the covered population. In China, the disease will cost the economy the equivalent of $558 billion in the U.S. over the next decade. People with early-stage chronic kidney disease tend to not notice any symptoms. Once detected, chronic kidney disease can be treated with medicines and lifestyle changes, including healthier food and beverage choices. These treatments usually decrease the rate at which chronic kidney disease worsens, but cannot prevent progression. “Understanding which patients are at risk for severe chronic kidney disease can lead to earlier and more effective treatments, thus preserving kidney function and helping patients lead longer and healthier lives,” Kretzler says. Authors: In addition to Kretzler, Ju and Nair, the study’s authors from U-M include Shahaan Smith, Kerby Shedden, Ph.D., Peter X.K. Song, Ph.D., Laura H. Mariani, M.D., Felix H. Eichinger, M.S., Celine C. Berthier, Ph.D., Ann Randolph, M.S., Jennifer Yi-Chun Lai, M.D., M.P.H., Yan Zhou, Jennifer J. Hawkins, M.P.H., Markus Bitzer, M.D., M.S., Matthew G. Sampson, M.D., and Frank C. Brosius III, M.D. Funding: Funding for the study came from the National Institutes of Health (grants R01DK079912, P30DK081943, DK083912, P30DK020572, UL1RR000433); National Institutes of Health Office of Rare Diseases Research, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, University of Michigan, and NephCure Kidney International (grant U54DK083912); The Else Kröner-Fresenius Foundation, the European Consortium for High-Throughput Research in Rare Kidney Diseases (grant EURenOmics; European Union FP 7:305608); The University of Michigan Health System – Peking University Health Sciences Center Joint Institute for Clinical and Translational Research; Analysis of urine samples of C-PROBE patients was supported by F. Hoffman-La Roche."

Dr. Gilbert S. Omenn
"Proteomics brings genetic information to a practical level, says Gilbert Omenn, a bioinformatician at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and chair of the global Human Proteome Project (HPP). The idea of the project is to create a “complete parts list” of the human body, he says, “to fill in the many blank spots between knowing that a gene has something to do with a disease process and knowing how it really works”."

"Researchers at the University of Michigan have been awarded $2.4 million through a National Institutes of Health program to explore bold ideas that have the potential to catapult fields forward and speed the translation of research into improved health. In epigenetics, scientists study external influences on genetic changes that don't involve the actual DNA sequence. Epigenetic changes are associated with aging (e.g., increased genomic instability), disease (e.g., Rett syndrome, cancer) and environmental influences (e.g., nutrition, radiation, toxicants). In both laboratory and clinical settings, however, the inability to epigenetically target specific genes remains a significant gap in technology and treatment. Dolinoy and colleagues Maureen Sartor, associate professor of bioinformatics at the Medical School, and Christopher Faulk, assistant professor of functional genomics at the University of Minnesota, will use a class of Ribonucleic acid (RNA) called Piwi-interacting RNA (piRNA) to develop technology that will target and "turn off" genes that are likely to become defective. This is known as gene silencing."

Bryan Moyers
"Practice Better Science Writing with MiSciWriters"

Cristen Willer, Ph.D.
Cristen Willer, Ph.D., was awarded the Dean's Basic Science Research Award. This award recognizes a scientist or group of scientists identified as having made outstanding contributions to the Medical School in basic biomedical science research.

Michigan Institute for Data Science (MIDAS)

Associated Press
A national wire story that pulls Mark Schlissel and Jack Hu's quotes from the news release has appeared on websites of at least 30 outlets in Michigan, Ohio, New York, Oklahoma. Example: http://www.ourmidland.com/news/state/university-of-michigan-launches-m-data-initiative/article_c9e79932-07cf-5fa4-a544-59325c8a048b.html

Detroit Free Press

Detroit News
In-depth piece that takes extra effort to explain the relevance. Dan and I set up two interviews for the reporter, one with Brian Athey and one with physics professor Tim McKay, who explained the scientific relevance.

ASEE First Bell
Top story on today's high-profile e-newsletter distributed by the American Society for Engineering Education to its members.

WJBK Fox 2 TV news
Watch the clip at: https://drive.google.com/a/umich.edu/file/d/0By41ZKE4ZrVaRnpfQTRORF9YV00/view?usp=sharing

Inside Higher Ed

Campus Technology

Health Data Management
Al Hero and Brian Athey were both interviewed by this specialized outlet.

Ann Arbor News

WWJ Radio
Interviewed Brian Athey
Read a story at
Listen to the clip at

WDET, Detroit's NPR station
Brian Athey and Al Hero were interviewed.

DCM&B director, Professor Brian Athey, Ph.D., has been named as co-director to The Michigan Institute of Data Science (MIDAS) along with Professor Al Hero, Ph.D., CCMB Affiliate Faculty Member and long time mentor in the Bioinformatics Graduate Program. MIDAS is the focal point at U-M for the multidisciplinary study of data science.

U-M is launching a project to analyze complex data in transportation,medicine, and social science and Dr. Brian Athey, DCM&B director and co-director of the ‘Data Science Initiative’ speaks with WDET radio about this.

ANN ARBOR—Progress in a wide spectrum of fields ranging from medicine to transportation relies critically on the ability to gather, store, search, and analyze “big data”—collections of information so vast and complex that they challenge traditional approaches to data processing and analysis. The University of Michigan plans to invest $100 million over the next five years in a new Data Science Initiative (DSI) that will enhance opportunities for student and faculty researchers across the University to tap into the enormous potential of big data. “Big data can provide dramatic insights into the nature of disease, climate change, social behavior, business and economics, engineering, and the basic biological and physical sciences,” said U-M President Mark Schlissel. “With our widely recognized strengths across all of these areas, and our longstanding culture of collaboration across disciplines, U-M is in a unique position to leverage this investment in data science for the good of society.” Under the auspices of the DSI, U-M plans to: hire 35 new faculty over the next four years and engage existing faculty across campus; expand U-M’s research computing capacity; strengthen data management, storage, analytics, and training resources; foster new methodological approaches to big data; provide new educational opportunities for students pursuing careers in data science; and support interdisciplinary data-related research initiatives. “Data science has become as a fourth approach to scientific discovery, in addition to experimentation, modeling, and computation,” said Provost Martha Pollack. “To spur innovation while providing focus, the DSI will launch challenge initiatives in four critical interdisciplinary areas that build on our existing strengths in transportation research, health sciences, learning analytics, and social science research.” In one project at U-M’s Mobility Transformation Center, for example, researchers are collecting a continuous stream of data at 10 times a second from each of nearly 3,000 private cars, trucks, and buses on the streets of Ann Arbor in order to test the operation of connected vehicles. The DSI will help collect, store, and analyze the huge amount of data being generated even as the number of vehicles expands to more than 20,000. "In medicine and public health, U-M researchers seek to use big data to boost the effectiveness of data-driven biomedical and health research to improve patient care. By sifting through the massive amount of data generated from DNA sequencing, medical histories, and other sources, for example, they are exploring ways to more precisely diagnose or assess an individual’s risk for certain types of cancer, and to formulate the most effective personalized therapies. Another novel area of research at U-M is drawing on big data to examine the nature of teaching and learning with the aim of providing instruction tailored to the specific needs of individual students. This will involve, for example, gathering and analyzing a rich variety of data from thousands of student activities and experiences to uncover the connections between student behavior and success for different kinds of students. And in social science, U-M researchers are studying the potential of analyzing massive amounts of data generated by social media to replace or complement conventional surveying techniques as a way to gain insight into a broad range of socioeconomic questions. Industry engagement is also central to the initiative, with a particular focus on the automotive, advanced manufacturing, chemical, finance, health care, and pharmaceutical sectors. Reflecting the broad promise of big data, all academic units on campus are supporting the initiative. As part of the DSI, U-M will be establishing the Michigan Institute for Data Science. “Big data is revolutionizing research in an extraordinary range of disciplines,” said S. Jack Hu, interim vice president for research. “With this initiative, our goal is to spark innovation in research across campus while inspiring further advances in the techniques of data science itself.” An inaugural symposium to mark the launch of the Data Science Initiative is scheduled for October 6 in the Rackham Building. The event will be open to the university community and the public. For more information on the Data Science Initiative and the inaugural symposium, please visit the Michigan Institute for Data Science website at midas.umich.edu/dsi."

"Past AAAS President Gil Omenn and his wife Martha Darling have endowed a new AAAS lecture series, which Omenn kicked off at the AAAS Forum on Science & Technology Policy by exploring the need for "aspirational and inspirational" research challenges. The Gilbert S. Omenn Grand Challenges Address was established to identify "particularly challenging needs and goals at the intersection of science and society." Building on Omenn's Presidential Address at the 2006 AAAS Annual Meeting and its publication in Science, the new lecture series should help to "energize not only the scientific and engineering community, but also students, journalists, the public, and their elected representatives, to develop a sense of the possibilities, an appreciation of risks, and an urgent commitment to accelerate progress," he said."