Development of zebrafish models for renal regeneration and glomerular diseases

Research Group Leader

  • PD Dr. med. Heiko Schenk 


Research Assistants

  • Dr. med. Uta Hillebrand 
  • Michaela Beese



  • Cand. med. Moritz Zeller


Scientific profile

Kidney regeneration - The human kidney has a limited regenerative potential, which is restricted to tubule cells. Zebrafish, on the other hand, are able to regenerate their kidneys via a stem cell-mediated reparative process. The stem cells required for this have been poorly characterized, so this is a focus of our scientific work in collaboration with the Drummond Lab (Iain Drummond, PhD, MDIBL). The use of zebrafish as a model organism allows us to use functional regeneration of nephrons in zebrafish as a model for human kidney regeneration and derive insights from this.  

Glomerular diseases - Using zebrafish larvae, we aim to better understand the relevance of soluble factors in glomerular diseases such as FSGS and minimal change disease, among others. At the same time, we use the zebrafish larva as a high-throughput model to identify and characterize mechanisms of renal involvement in systemic diseases but also in sepsis. We see the development of new therapeutic options as an overarching goal.  


Selected publications


  1. Stahl K, Schenk H, Kühn C, Wiesner O, Hoeper MM, David S. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation in non-intubated immunocompromised patients. Crit Care. 2021 Apr 30;25(1):164. doi: 10.1186/s13054-021-03584-8. PMID: 33931122 

  2. Djenoune L, Tomar R, Dorison A, Ghobrial I, Schenk H, Hegermann J, Beverly-Staggs L, Hidalgo-Gonzalez A, Little MH, Drummond IA. Autonomous Calcium Signaling in Human and Zebrafish Podocytes Controls Kidney Filtration Barrier Morphogenesis. J Am Soc Nephrol. 2021 Apr 28;32(7):1697–712. doi: 10.1681/ASN.2020101525. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33911000 

  3. Etzrodt V, Idowu TO, Schenk H, Seeliger B, Prasse A, Thamm K, Pape T, Müller-Deile J, van Meurs M, Thum T, Garg A, Geffers R, Stahl K, Parikh SM, Haller H, David S. Role of endothelial microRNA 155 on capillary leakage in systemic inflammation. Crit Care. 2021 Feb 22;25(1):76. doi: 10.1186/s13054-021-03500-0. PMID: 33618730 

  4. Schenk H, Müller-Deile J, Schroder P, Bolaños-Palmieri P, Beverly-Staggs L, White R, Bräsen JH, Haller H, Schiffer M. Characterizing renal involvement in Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome in a zebrafish model. Sci Rep. 2019 Nov 27;9(1):17718. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-54058-5. PMID: 31776394 

  5. Stahl K, Schenk H, Seeliger B, Wiesner O, Schmidt JJ, Bauersachs J, Welte T, Kühn C, Haverich A, Hoeper MM, David S. Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation for acute respiratory distress syndrome due to Pneumocystis pneumonia. Eur Respir J. 2019 Sep 19;54(3):1900410. doi: 10.1183/13993003.00410-2019. PMID: 31151957. 

  6. Schenk H, Masseli A, Schroder P, Bolaños-Palmieri P, Beese M, Hegermann J, Bräsen JH, Haller H. Sulfatases, in Particular Sulf1, Are Important for the Integrity of the Glomerular Filtration Barrier in Zebrafish. Biomed Res Int. 2019 Jul 22;2019:4508048. doi: 10.1155/2019/4508048. PMID: 31428635 

  7. Müller-Deile J, Schenk H, Schroder P, Schulze K, Bolaños-Palmieri P, Siegerist F, Endlich N, Haller H, Schiffer M. Circulating factors cause proteinuria in parabiotic zebrafish. Kidney Int. 2019 Aug;96(2):342-349. doi: 10.1016/j.kint.2019.02.013. Epub 2019 Mar 8. PMID: 31076096. 

  8. Müller-Deile J, Schenk H, Niggemann P, Bolaños-Palmieri P, Teng B, Higgs A, Staggs L, Haller H, Schroder P, Schiffer M. Mutation of microphthalmia-associated transcription factor (mitf) in zebrafish sensitizes for glomerulopathy. Biol Open. 2019 Mar 4;8(3):bio040253. doi: 10.1242/bio.040253. PMID: 30718228 

  9. Schenk H, Müller-Deile J, Schmitt R, Bräsen JH, Haller H, Schiffer M. Removal of focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) factor suPAR using CytoSorb. J Clin Apher. 2017 Dec;32(6):444-452. doi: 10.1002/jca.21538. Epub 2017 Mar 29. PMID: 28370393. 

  10. Schenk H, Müller-Deile J, Kinast M, Schiffer M. Disease modeling in genetic kidney diseases: zebrafish. Cell Tissue Res. 2017 Jul;369(1):127-141. doi: 10.1007/s00441-017-2593-0. Epub 2017 Mar 22. PMID: 28331970. 


Current third-party funding


KIAA1199 und der Hyaluronsäure-Signalweg: ein vielversprechender therapeutischer Ansatz für glomeruläre Erkrankungen  

Sponsor: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft 

PI Schenk SCHE 2173/3-1, 2022-2025  


Charakterisierung protektiver Effekte der Plasmapherese von septischen Patienten durch Repletion von Heparanase 2 im Zebrafisch-Modell 

Sponsor: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft  

DFG Clinician Scientist Programm unter Leitung von Frau Professorin Melk (ME 3696/3-1), 2020-2021  


Open positions and PhD projects

Wir freuen uns über Anfragen von interessierten Medizin- und PhD Studierenden und bieten hierfür spannende grundlagenwissenschaftliche Fragestellungen an!  



E-Mail schenk.heiko(at)