Kidney Development, Disease and Regeneration

Research Overview

Under the campus partnership, our research is embedded in MCRI.  Full research profile may be found at The kidneys are essential organs that maintain fluid balance, blood volume and electrolyte balance. This is achieved by the 1,000,000 individual nephrons present in each adult kidney, all of which are formed before birth. In humans, the stem cells that give rise to each nephron are lost before birth, hence any disease or damage after that time results in nephron loss and reduced kidney function. Each year, more than 4000 Australians will be diagnosed with chronic kidney disease with treatment costing in excess of $1 billion per annum. With this rate increasing at 6% per annum there is an urgent need to develop novel therapies for kidney disease.

Around 10-20% of kidney disease is inherited. In children with kidney disease, this is closer to 50% although in many instances, the disease-causing mutation is unknown, therefore limiting treatment options. In our research group, we investigate the genes required for normal kidney development and what happens as a result of genetic or environmental damage during development. This knowledge is used to try to recreate kidney stem cells. We have developed methods for generating mini-kidneys from human stem cells that represent models of the human organ. We hope to use these mini-kidneys to screen drugs for kidney toxicity, as models with which to understand kidney disease, to generate cells for the treatment of kidney disease and eventually to bioengineer replacement organs.


  • Professor Melissa Little, Research Group Leader
  • Dr Alex Combes, Honorary Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Dr Cathy Quinlan, Honorary Clinical Fellow
  • Dr Sara Howden, Research Office
  • Dr Lorna Hale, Research Officer
  • Dr Andrew Mallett, Honorary Fellow Manager off-site
  • Dr Jessica Vanslambrouck, Research Officer
  • Dr Kynan Lawlor, Research Officer
  • Dr Santosh Kumar, Research Officer
  • Dr David Yen, Research Officer
  • Dr Belinda Phipson, Research Officer
  • Pei Xuan Er, Research Assistant
  • Dr Gemma Martinez, Research Assistant
  • Irene Ghobrial, Research Assistant
  • Sean Wilson, Research Assistant
  • Pamela Kairath Olivia, PhD student
  • Tom Forbes, PhD student
  • Joanne Soo, PhD student
  • Ella Wilkins, Associate Genetic Counsellor
  • Louise Wardrop, KidGen Program Manager
  • Trish Barber, Stem Cells Project Manager
  • Asha Serpless, Personal Assistant

Research Projects

For project inquiries, contact our research group head.

Faculty Research Themes

Child Health

School Research Themes

Child Health in Medicine

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact Research Group Leader Professor Melissa Little

Department / Centre


Unit / Centre

Kidney Development, Disease and Regeneration

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