All about kidneys: Michael Hultström joins Real Scientists

We are delighted to welcome our next curator, Dr Michael Hultström (@mhultstrom), Associate Professor of Physiology,  Uppsala University, Sweden.  Michael is an anaesthesiologist and nephrophysiologist who studies the functioning and diseases of the kidney.  He writes about his work as a doctor and academic at his blog, Nephrophysiologist. We’re excited to have a clinician on board. Here’s Michael in his own words.


I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in science. When it got time to apply for university I wanted to go into medicine and applied for a research program that included an extra 20 weeks of coursework the first two years. The idea behind the program was to get medical students eligible for the PhD-program while they still did preclinical subjects and thus lure them into basic science. It worked. unnamed


I didn’t really choose my field, it just kind of happened. My first summer research project went badly, so I changed labs for my second summer and that went well. After my PhD, I finished qualifying as a medical doctor and had to find a residency. As a kidney physiologist I was pretty set on nephrology. However, I got an offer from the department of anaesthesiology and intensive care while the nephrology department suggested I get qualified in medicine first. Physiology plays well with anaesthesiology and intensive care where our role is to “maintain normal physiology”, or keep the patient alive, as we like to call it while the surgeons do their job and the patient recovers. And, more importantly, i’m not finished yet.


My PhD was spent mostly on vascular function in the kidney focusing on isolated arterioles looking at how different hormones affect eachother’s effect. Then I worked on kidney damage in high blood pressure for part of my PhD (and most of what I like to call my postdoc). Since I got into anaesthesiology and intensive care I have started to turn my focus on acute kidney injury in circulatory collapse, like in haemorrhage and heart failure. Luckily, vascular function is important in acute kidney injury, and the risk of acute kidney injury is increased in patients with high blood pressure. So, it all comes together. In practice, I do mostly supervising now as I try to build a research group. Lots of writing, grants, articles, reviews and so on. Clinically I work as a resident in anaesthesiology, that is putting patients to sleep for surgery, and intensive care, which is keeping critically ill patients alive while they recover. My goal is to integrate my basic research with my work in the clinic so that we can study questions that arise in actual patients, and so that we can use what we discover in the lab to save lives. Or, at least understand why we fail.


When we understand how the body works, it is much easier to take care of it. This goes both for critical care, and for daily life. Knowing something about how the body works also makes it much easier to understand the doctor and make ourselves understood when we get ill ourselves. Looking to what I actually research easy to start quoting statistics, and I will, but in short, organ damage from high blood pressure is the most common preventable cause of death. Between 20% and 30% of the population have high blood pressure, rising to 70% of 70-year-olds. Most people will have surgery sometime in their life time, and that brings with it some risks that we have to minimise. One of those are acute kidney injury. Finally, half our patients in intensive care do not survive their disease. If they get acute kidney injury the survival decreases by half again.


I work on the editorial board of Physiological Genomics, a scientific journal published by the Americal Physiological Society where we try to integrate organ and whole-body function with modern genetics. And I am doing my third term as secretary of the Norwegian Society of Hypertension, which is a scientific society that arrange a course on diagnosis and treatment of hypertension every other year, and a scientific meeting every other year.


Most evenings I can be found at Uppsala Judo Club, either fighting or teaching. Often a bit of both. If the sky is clear I like to do a bit of astronomy.


Ideal Day Off? Let’s pretend that there was a day when my to-do-list was actually empty, the sky was cloudy, there was no judo session, and the family had no plans. Then I like to read, just curl up in a chair and read a good book. Probably science fiction with a bit of music in the background and a cup of coffee.


Please welcome Michael to Real Scientists!

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