Renal Pathologist to Share Lessons from a Lifetime's Work

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Helmut G. Rennke, MD

Citation: Kidney News 13, 10/11

The title of the Burton D. Rose, MD, Endowed Lectureship will be “Evolution of Renal Pathophysiology: Key Observations over Five Decades.”

The speaker will be Helmut G. Rennke, MD, who is professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School and director of the renal pathology and electron microscopy laboratory at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. The lecture is scheduled for Saturday, November 6.

Dr. Rennke's research in renal pathology is aided by his laboratory's workload of some 1500 cases per year. Most renal biopsies and many of the nephrectomy specimens examined require immunofluorescence and electron microscopy evaluation, in addition to the routine light microscopy examination, to establish a final clinico-pathological correlation and assess the patient's disease.

His most recent research examines poorly understood clinico-pathological correlations in disease, in particular analyzing key clinical and morphological aspects of fibrillary glomerulopathy and collapsing glomerulopathy. He has also focused on vascular diseases in the kidney, examining the hypothesis that thrombophilia is the underlying mechanism responsible for arterial and arteriolar sclerosis and renal scarring.

Dr. Rennke's early experimental work was designed to elucidate various pathophysiological aspects of glomerular function and structure. His studies of the molecular determinants of the permeability of macromolecular transport across the glomerular capillary wall revealed that the molecular charge and configuration, in addition to size, are key factors in the glomerular permeability to proteins. Those molecular factors also proved to be important for the localization of antigens within the glomerular capillary wall and the clinical and structural expression of immune complex-mediated glomerular diseases.

In a large series of studies on renal ablation, his team showed that the progression of kidney disease is in part due to compensatory hemodynamic adaptations and glomerular epithelial cell hypertrophy in a positive-feedback loop that results in obsolescence of filtering capillaries and irreversible glomerulosclerosis.

Dr. Rennke's research has resulted in the publication of 153 research papers, 59 clinical papers, and 29 reviews or book chapters. He is a longtime member of the ASN scientific program committee and four journal editorial boards.

Among many honors, he received the Jacob Churg Award from the Renal Pathology Society and the Premio Víctor R. Miatello Award of the Latin American Society of Nephrology and Hypertension.

Dr. Rennke obtained his MD from the University of Chile Medical School followed by an internship and residency in pathology at Hospital del Salvador in Santiago. He then completed a fellowship in pathology at the University of Kiel in Germany, residencies at the Mallory Institute of Pathology in Boston and what is now Brigham and Women's Hospital, and a research fellowship in pathology at Brigham and Women's Hospital.