Robert Geoffrey Nelson, M.D., Ph.D.

Senior Investigator

Chronic Kidney Disease Section, Phoenix Epidemiology and Clinical Research Branch


Building PECRB, Room 604
1550 E Indian School Rd
Phoenix, AZ 85014

+1 602 200 5205

Research Topics

Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease worldwide and is a major cause of death and disability. Our research goal is to find the causes and identify new and effective treatments to slow the progression or prevent the development of diabetic kidney disease.

Current Research

Our lab has worked with the Pima Indians in Arizona since 1986, focusing primarily on the kidney complications of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Current activities include identifying biomarkers and underlying mechanisms for diabetic kidney disease and characterizing the structural and functional changes within the kidneys that occur with the development and progression of diabetic kidney disease. Gene expression in kidney tissue and epigenetic modification of gene expression is also a major focus of our work.


  • Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles, 1998
  • M.P.H., Harvard University, 1986
  • B.S., M.D., Loma Linda University, 1978

Selected Publications

  1. Nelson RG, Knowler WC, Kretzler M, Lemley KV, Looker HC, Mauer M, Mitch WE, Najafian B, Bennett PH. Pima Indian Contributions to Our Understanding of Diabetic Kidney Disease. Diabetes. 2021.

  2. Satake E, Saulnier PJ, Kobayashi H, Gupta M, Looker H, Wilson J, Md Dom Z, Ihara K, O'Neil K, Krolewski B, Pipino C, Pavkov M, Nair V, Bitzer M, Niewczas M, Kretzler M, Mauer M, Doria A, Najafian B, Kulkarni R, Duffin K, Pezzolesi M, Kahn CR, Nelson R, Krolewski A. Comprehensive Search for Novel Circulating miRNAs and Axon Guidance Pathway Proteins Associated with Risk of End Stage Kidney Disease in Diabetes. J Am Soc Nephrol. 2021.

  3. Menon R, Otto EA, Sealfon R, Nair V, Wong AK, Theesfeld CL, Chen X, Wang Y, Boppana AS, Luo J, Yang Y, Kasson PM, Schaub JA, Berthier CC, Eddy S, Lienczewski CC, Godfrey B, Dagenais SL, Sohaney R, Hartman J, Fermin D, Subramanian L, Looker HC, Harder JL, Mariani LH, Hodgin JB, Sexton JZ, Wobus CE, Naik AS, Nelson RG, Troyanskaya OG, Kretzler M. SARS-CoV-2 receptor networks in diabetic and COVID-19-associated kidney disease. Kidney Int. 2020;98(6):1502-1518.

  4. Saulnier PJ, Looker HC, Mauer M, Najafian B, Gand E, Ragot S, Nelson RG, Bjornstad P. Intraglomerular dysfunction predicts kidney failure in type 2 diabetes. Diabetes. 2021.

  5. Nelson RG, Grams ME, Ballew SH, Sang Y, Azizi F, Chadban SJ, Chaker L, Dunning SC, Fox C, Hirakawa Y, Iseki K, Ix J, Jafar TH, Köttgen A, Naimark DMJ, Ohkubo T, Prescott GJ, Rebholz CM, Sabanayagam C, Sairenchi T, Schöttker B, Shibagaki Y, Tonelli M, Zhang L, Gansevoort RT, Matsushita K, Woodward M, Coresh J, Shalev V, CKD Prognosis Consortium.. Development of Risk Prediction Equations for Incident Chronic Kidney Disease. JAMA. 2019;322(21):2104-2114.

This page was last updated on August 20th, 2021