Mini kidneys in a dish – using kidney organoids to study disease

Project Code: 10459767

Faculty: Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

Department: Molecular Medicine & Pathology

Main Supervisor: Dr Veronika Sander (vsan831)

Principal investigator: Dr Alan Davidson (adav047)

Application open date: 24 Jan 2021

Application deadline: 31 Jan 2022

Enrolment information: NZ Citizens, NZ Permanent Residents, International


The kidneys are crucial organs for waste excretion from the body and maintaining the fluid and electrolyte balance of the blood. Damage to the kidneys caused by diabetes and hypertension, acute kidney injury by toxins, sepsis or ischemia as well as congenital renal malformations and renal cancers often progresses to chronic kidney disease, a major global health concern.

Organoids (mini organs grown in a dish) generated from human pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) have revolutionised how organ development and disease are studied. To overcome the urgent need for effective therapies for kidney disease, our lab has established a method to grow kidney organoids from human iPSCs (Przepiorski et al., Stem Cell Reports, 2018). Organoid development resembles nephrogenesis as it occurs in the human fetus and results in multiple kidney tissue types with high degree of maturation. Approaches currently undertaken in our lab use these kidney organoids to recapitulate different types of kidney disease, including acute kidney injury, congenital kidney malformations, kidney fibrosis and kidney cancer, with the aim of improving our understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying these diseases and ultimately, developing new therapies.

What we are looking for in a successful applicant

The successful applicant will be interested in understanding the molecular mechanism underlying kidney disease and enthusiastic for learning new skills.



We have different drug candidates available to be tested on organoid models of kidney disease. The Masters project will encompass establishing a readout method (e.g. toxicity, changes in gene or protein expression), then measure the dose-dependent effects of the drugs.

Other information

The successful applicant will learn a range of state-of-the-art techniques, including immunohistochemistry, qPCR, iPSC and organoid in vitro culture, and confocal imaging.