«Hypoxia in a box – studying cell damage in kidney disease»

"Hypoxia in a box - studying cell damage in kidney disease"

Our kidney research group led by Prof. Uyen Huynh-Do at the University Hospital Bern is studying, among other things, how adverse events during fetal development increases the risk to develop renal diseases in adulthood. Many findings that we obtain with this research approach can be applied to unravel the mechanisms leading to the development and progression of chronic kidney disease (CKD) in general.

CKD is a major health concern, affecting 10 percent of the population worldwide. Here, the effects of low oxygen or hypoxia play a significant role in its development and progression. If the oxygen supply is chronically limited during development in the womb (e.g. at altitudes of more than 2500 meters), this very often leads to growth retardation of the fetus, and especially of the kidneys. It is therefore assumed that these smaller kidneys have to distribute their tasks to fewer filtration units (nephrons) throughout life, which gradually leads to overloading of the nephrons and their failure in adulthood. This creates a vicious circle at the end of which there is an accelerated loss of kidney function. However, the mechanisms that program the development of CKD are still largely undefined. 

With the generous support of the Bern University Research Foundation, we were able to purchase a BT37 Mark II bench top incubator. The BT37 Mark II provides a valuable tool to study the effects of hypoxia in kidney disease, as it allows us to mimic the conditions of low oxygen levels at high altitudes on cells and tissues. Because of its small size (comparable to a microwave oven) and low gas consumption (30 ml/min) it can be used flexibly to address many different research questions. 

We routinely use the BT37 Mark II in our lab to expose primary renal cells to 1% oxygen to induce cellular stress, and study the effect of various substance for their ability to attenuate the effect of the hypoxic condition. With the help of these important in vitro experiments we are able to identify potential disease-promoting signaling cascades and how they can be manipulated. These experiments provide invaluable insights into the pathology of CKD, and help us to define better experimental animals models, before we validate our findings in vivo.

In conclusion, the BT37 Mark II has become an essential tool in our lab to study the effects of hypoxia in kidney disease and provides valuable insights into the behavior and responses of kidney cells and tissues under low-oxygen conditions.

Dr. rer. nat. Stefan Rudloff
Prof. Dr. med. Uyen Huynh-Do

Klinik für Nephrologie und Hypertonie, Inselspital

BT37 Mark II bench top incubator

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