Jeff M Sands, MD

Juha P. Kokko Professor of Medicine and Physiology, Director of the Renal Division

Emory University Department of Medicine



Dr. Sands is the head of the “urea group.” This group is composed of a variety of investigators in the Emory University Division of Renal Medicine and in Emory Physiology that collaborate in investigating proteins that are involved in the manipulation of urea in the kidney. This work is chiefly about analyzing the transport proteins that are involved in producing a concentrated urine and seeing how they interrelate in the response of the body to conditions that result in polyuria.


Dr. Sands is the Juha P. Kokko Professor of Medicine and Physiology and director of the Emory University Division of Renal Medicine. He is a graduate of Harvard College and Boston University School of Medicine. He trained in medicine at the University of Chicago Division of the Biological Sciences at the Pritzker School of Medicine and the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Following research fellowship training in the Laboratory of Kidney and Electrolyte Metabolism, NHLBI, NIH, he proceeded to a clinical nephrology fellowship at Emory. Dr. Sands joined the Emory faculty as assistant professor in 1989, was promoted to associate professor in 1993, and was appointed a professor of medicine in 1998. He accepted the Kokko Professorship and division director position at Emory in 2002, and he was named executive vice chair of the Department of Medicine in 2009. Dr. Sands served as associate dean for clinical and translational research from 2006-2010. He served as editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Physiology–Renal Physiology from 2001-2007. He is a member of the American Association of Physicians, the American Society for Clinical Investigation, and the American Clinical and Climatological Association. He has served on study sections for the NIH, AHA, and NKF and currently serves on the NIDDK Board of Scientific Counselors. He was chair of the 2004 Program Committee of the American Society of Nephrology, councilor of the American Physiological Society from 2003-2006, and chair of the Kidney Council of the American Heart Association from 2008-2010. Dr Sands’ research focuses on urea transport proteins and the urine-concentrating mechanism.

Dr. Sands’ research is directed at understanding the physiology of urea transport proteins, the renal inner medulla, and the urine concentrating mechanism. Current research projects are focused on defining the molecular physiology of urea transporters, since urea transport is a key component in the urine-concentrating mechanism. These studies use rat and mouse models of abnormal concentrating and diluting ability, including genetically engineered mice. Dr. Sands uses a combination of isolated perfused tubule studies to measure urea transport, antibodies to measure changes in the amount, location, phosphorylation, or localization of the urea transport proteins, and Northern analysis and real-time PCR to measure changes in mRNA, and surface biotinylation and confocal microscopy to measure changes in the subcellular localization of urea transporters. Recently, his lab has been translating their basic research findings to study whether activating AMPK with metformin, a medication that is used to treat type 2 diabetes mellitus, may be effective in treating nephrogenic diabetes insipidus.

Dr. Sands, in collaboration with Drs. Klein, Blount, and Froehlich, made stably-transfected polarized epithelial cell lines, UT-A1-MDCK and UT-A1-mIMCD3 cells, that stably express UT-A1 and reproduce many of the physiological properties of urea transport in inner medullary collecting ducts. These cells can be used to determine the kinetic relationships between functional urea transporters, the membrane into which they are inserted (apical vs. basolateral), their activation by phosphorylation or other modifications, and their regulation. Dr. Sands has also made cell lines expressing mutated urea transporters that can be used to determine critically important portions of the molecule for folding, surface expression and transport.

Dr. Sands gives lectures on the urine-concentrating mechanism and disorders of water transport in the Fundamentals of Medicine course. He also teaches residents and renal fellows who rotate on the renal service at EUH.

Dr. Sands has served on several thesis committees for PhD and MD/PhD students, the departmental faculty development committee and promotions committee, and the School of Medicine committee that reorganized the preclinical portion of the curriculum Foundations of Medicine. He serves in leadership positions in the American Physiological Society and the American Heart Association (AHA). He has served on grant review committees for NIH, AHA, and the National Kidney Foundation, and currently serves on the NIDDK Board of Scientific Counselors. He currently serves as director of the Division of Renal Medicine and executive vice chair of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine.


View a full list of publications from Jeff M. Sands, MD at PubMed.