Benjamin Freedman

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This week we profile a recent publication in JCI Insight from the laboratory of Dr. Benjamin Freedman (pictured) at UW.

Can you provide a brief overview of your lab’s current research focus?

Our lab is focused on kidney disease – understanding it, and finding treatments, using human organoids as research tools.

What is the significance of the findings in this publication?

Using organoids, we discovered that SARS-CoV-2 has an exquisite ability to infect a specific and important population of cells within the kidneys, the proximal tubules. The virus gains entry to these cells through a specific receptor, ACE2. Using a tiny protein therapeutic that interferes with this entry pathway, we were able to block the infection. A kidney ‘signature’ of COVID in human urine was also detected in organoids after infection, suggesting that these findings are physiologically relevant.

What are the next steps for this research?

We’d like to understand more about the consequences of infection – how long it lasts, and whether the kidneys have any ability to clear it. We’re also interested in how cells that are resistant to infection, such as podocytes, might be indirectly affected by COVID-19. The signature we found suggests an inflammatory state that may impact the kidneys.

If you’d like us to mention your funding sources, please list them.

The Department of Defense (CDMRP), and NIH (NCATS, NIDDK, and Common Fund), among other sources of funding.

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