Thomas Benzing, MD, PhD
Benzing’s research is focussed on the pathogenesis of genetic kidney diseases, with an emphasis on signal transduction and protein interactions. Benzing and his team have studied human genetic kidney diseases to better understand the molecular pathophysiology of renal disease. They pioneered the concept of signalling at the slit diaphragm, a specialized cell junction at the kidney filtration barrier, and deciphered the function of protein complexes at the filtration barrier and their role in controlling glomerular biology. Some of these findings are currently being translated into potential new treatment options for patients with glomerular disease. Moreover, Benzing and his team have investigated signalling through cilia, sensory organelles that play a role in controlling animal survival, longevity and tissue function as well as cancer. Cilia-associated proteins are mutated in cystic kidney disease and a variety of other disorders. This research has led to the discovery of novel genes and pathways involved in the pathogenesis of ciliopathies. In addition to cell biological and genetic studies and genetically engineered mice Benzing uses Drosophila melanogaster and C. elegans as models as well as proteomics and genomics technologies and advanced live imaging. Recently, the Benzing lab identified a novel longevity pathway and showed that deletion of the vhl-1 gene in C. elegans markedly extends lifespan in the nematode. The same pathway reduces susceptibility to various renal insults and slows progression of age-related kidney disease.