Nephrology Nobel Prizes

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The Nobel Prize was first awarded in 1895. A number of awards have been given to individuals whose research is inseparable from the field of Nephrology. Here are a few of the notable examples:

1. 2003 Nobel Prize in Chemistry: Roderick Mackinnon and Peter Agre, for their work on ion channels and the discovery of water channels (the aquaporins) specifically. Prior to the discovery of aquaporins, most scientists believed that water merely “leaked” through the cell membrane. The highly regulated process of water transport in the collecting duct of the nephron was one important clue that specific channels are responsible for the movement of water in and out of the cell.

2. 1990 Nobel Prize in Physiology & Medicine: Joseph Murray, the surgeon who performed the first-ever kidney transplant between identical twins, thereby demonstrating that previous failures at kidney transplantation were due to immunologic incompatibilities rather than surgical technique.

3. 1997 Nobel Prize in Chemistry: Jens Skou, a Danish chemist who is credited with the discovery of the Na/K ATPase. Although this has broad implications for all cell types, the Na/K pumps is essential in understanding the chemical gradients which allow for ion transport to occur all along the nephron.

Obviously there are a ton of other Nobel prize recipients whose work has relevance to Nephrology, as well as just about every other field of medicine (e.g., the discovery of DNA by Watson & Crick) but I’ve listed the ones that stand out to me as being of special interest to nephrologists.


  1. Roth and Shapley – Although their Nobel was in the field of economics, interestingly, their algorithm is being used for KPD programs to increase kidney transplants.

    The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2012 was awarded jointly to Alvin E. Roth and Lloyd S. Shapley “for the theory of stable allocations and the practice of market design.”

  2. The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1960 was awarded jointly to Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet and Peter Brian Medawar “for discovery of acquired immunological tolerance.”

  3. 1988
    Sir James W. Black
    Gertrude B. Elion
    George H. Hitchings
    Prize motivation: “for their discoveries of important principles for drug treatment.”
    The availability of azathioprine, also a Nobel-recognized discovery, allowed deceased donor transplantation to become a reality.
    Bennett WM. The American Society of Nephrology at 50: A Personal Perspective. Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. 2016;11(3):369–371. doi:10.2215/CJN.11291015

    The 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine is awarded jointly to William G. Kaelin Jr, Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe and Gregg L. Semenza “for their discoveries of how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability.” They identified molecular machinery that regulates the activity of genes in response to varying levels of oxygen.
    Sir Peter J. Ratcliffe is a nephrologist and “fascinated by the way the organs regulate the production of EPO in response to the amount of oxygen available,” which led to discoveries resulting in this Nobel Prize.

  4. Last 11 years Research in nephron

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