The O'Brien Urology Research Center investigates critical unanswered questions in nephrolithiasis research. We follow an integrated approach to work toward overall goals of defining the pathogenesis of nephrolithiasis and developing new diagnostic techniques in order to improve treatment and prevention strategies for renal stones, kidney stones and related urology conditions.

In the O'Brien Urology Research Center, existing clinical and basic science expertise in urology, nephrology, radiology, epidemiology and cell biology work in synergy to foster rapid progress and generate new findings.

Our initial goal when we were first funded more than a decade ago was to define the pathogenesis of nephrolithiasis and develop new diagnostic techniques to improve treatment and prevention strategies. Our scope has since broadened, and today we investigate all facets of nephrolithiasis and related conditions via interlinked multidisciplinary research projects and pilot projects.

Basic science research investigates the molecular mechanisms of oxalate transport and definition of the key urinary factors (electrolyte and proteomic) that drive formation of nascent renal stones. Translational imaging research is aimed at developing a noninvasive, in vivo diagnostic test to characterize kidney mineralization. Epidemiologic and biochemical research investigates the relationship between nephrolithiasis and chronic kidney disease to allow early identification of those at risk.

Important and timely aims of the O'Brien Urology Research Center include:

  • Maximizing CT imaging technology in order to differentiate stone type and detect the earliest possible precursor lesions in vivo
  • Determining the urinary risk factors that result in nephrolithiasis precursor lesions, including Randall's plaques
  • Identifying risk factors for recurrent symptomatic stone events
  • Determining the utility of CT imaging for asymptomatic stone growth as a surrogate for symptomatic stone events
  • Defining stone-specific factors that increase the risk of chronic kidney disease
  • Defining the role of the SLC26 family of cellular oxalate transporters, including SLC26a6, in determining final urinary oxalate concentrations

Three cores within our center provide vital research support for statistics, data management, dual energy CT data acquisition and analyses, and urine proteomics expertise and resources.


The O'Brien Urology Research Center at Mayo Clinic, along with other similar O'Brien centers in the U.S., is funded by a grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), which is part of the National Institutes of Health. The O'Brien centers conduct basic and translational research into the pathophysiology of urologic disease, generate and provide investigative resources that are available to the broader research community, and support pilot and feasibility studies.


Education is an integral part of the O'Brien Urology Research Center. Our education programs focus on integrating opportunities to train and encourage current and future health care providers and researchers to enter the field of urology research and clinical care.


The director of the O'Brien Urology Research Center is John C. Lieske, M.D. Dr. Lieske is a nephrologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science.