Understanding polycystic kidney disease: A systems biology approach. Fluid secretion was discovered in the mammalian nephron in the early 1970s upon a chance observation. This finding aroused interest in the possibility that a similar process might be involved in the filling of renal epithelial cysts. A research strategy was formulated to understand the life cycle of human renal cysts using a systems biology approach. A not-for-profit foundation was begun to increase the number of researchers in the United States and abroad working on the polycystic kidney disease (PKD) problem. Primary outcomes related to PKD include (1). explication of the transport mechanisms underlying the transepithelial secretion of chloride, sodium and fluid, and the regulation of that secretion by cyclic adenosine monophosphate (AMP); (2). the discovery that cyclic AMP stimulates the proliferation of cyst epithelial cells through activation of of B-Raf and the mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase pathway; and (3). the discovery that normal medullary collecting ducts secrete solutes and fluid under the control of cyclic AMP. The Polycystic Kidney Disease Foundation has become an international leader in promoting the research of these disorders and is a strong advocate for increased translation of fundamental laboratory discoveries to the care of the millions of patients with PKD.