Sodium Pump Researcher to Receive Homer W. Smith Award

Anita Aperia

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Anita Aperia, MD, PhD, will receive the Homer W. Smith Award, which will be followed by delivery of the Homer W. Smith Address titled “To Serve and Protect: Classical and Novel Roles for Na,K-ATPase” on Friday, November 11.

Dr. Aperia is professor of pediatrics at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm. The Smith Award recognizes individuals who contribute to our basic understanding of how the kidneys function in health and disease, and Dr. Aperia’s discoveries concerning the sodium pump have greatly advanced this knowledge.

She started her research career studying renal function in newborn infants. To elucidate the mechanisms behind the low capacity of the infant kidney to adapt to physiological needs, her experimental studies focused on the function and plasticity of the sodium pump, Na,K-ATPase. Her discovery that the sodium pump is regulated by dopamine led to a fruitful collaboration with professor Paul Greengard, aimed at settling questions concerning dopamine signaling through parallel studies on renal tubule cells and striatal neurons.

Her recent work has focused on the implications of her serendipitous finding that the sodium pump gives rise to a signal that protects the kidney from damage by disease and cell death.

A native of Sweden, Dr. Aperia received her PhD training at Yale University, where she studied effects of hypoxia on renal function. She graduated from the Karolinska Institutet medical school, where she was appointed professor of pediatrics in 1987.

Dr. Aperia chaired the Karolinska Institutet’s department of pediatrics from 1987 to 1999. During this time she initiated and planned the building of the Astrid Lindgren Children’s Hospital. She currently directs a multidisciplinary research group specializing in live cell imaging, a joint initiative of the Karolinska Institutet and the Royal Swedish Institute of Technology.

A dedicated teacher, she has supervised 47 doctoral and 30 postdoctoral students.

Dr. Aperia is a member of the Nobel Assembly for Physiology or Medicine and chaired the Nobel Assembly in 2001. She is a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Science, where she chaired the class of medicine from 2003 to 2010. She has been a councilor of the International Society of Nephrology and of the European Society of Pediatric Nephrology.

She has received numerous awards, including the Torsten and Ragnar Söderberg Prize in Medicine from the Swedish Society of Medicine, the Hamburger Award from the International Society of Nephrology, and another Swedish honor, His Majesty the King’s Medal.

Homer W. Smith

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Homer W. Smith was chairman of physiology at the University of Virginia before moving in 1928 to New York University (NYU). As director of the Physiology Laboratories at NYU, he developed and refined the concepts of glomerular filtration and tubular absorption and secretion of solutes.

The clarity of Dr. Smith’s logic and the skill with which he explained his ideas transformed them into vivid and powerful concepts that are the cornerstones of our present understanding of normal and abnormal renal function. He attracted the best and brightest to the field, to NYU, and to the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory, where he spent many summers studying renal physiology in fish.

The Homer W. Smith award recognizes individuals who contribute to our basic understanding of how the kidneys function in health and disease.

October-November 2011 (Vol. 3, Number 10 & 11)