How would you sum up your research in one sentence?
Overall, my research investigates how increased inflammation and cytokines present during hypertension actually promote increased sodium retention
Provide a brief overview of the research you will conduct with help from the grant.
The goal of this project is to investigate the role of dendritic cells, which are present throughout the renal cortex, in perpetuating the inflammatory milieu seen during salt-sensitive hypertension. I believe that these renal-specific dendritic cells contribute to the increased cytokine levels, such as interleukin-6 (IL-6), seen during hypertension.
Further, data from my laboratory suggests that IL-6 can increased blood pressure and sodium reabsorption via transactivation of the MR. We are investigating whether renal-specific dendritic cells will increase IL-6 levels in response to an increase in dietary sodium. These studies would finally give insight as to why resistant hypertensive patients respond to MR antagonists and give an alternate target to exploit therapeutically in that population.
What inspired you to focus your research in this area?
I have always gravitated towards cardiovascular and renal physiology, and started my career investigating the contribution of redox variants to hypertension in the vasculature. At that point, I started to realize how complex this disease actually is and how little we really know.
What impact do you hope your research will have on patients?
Long term, understanding what actually causes us to become ‘salt-sensitive’ is at the core of my research. If my research can move us toward a prevention, it would be incredible. In the short term, uncovering new tools and mechanisms to treat resistant hypertensive patients would be equally awesome.
What are your short- and long-term career goals?
My hopes are that with completing the studies in this grant, I will have the data necessary to submit an R01. To be successful in this career, you are always thinking about the next research area or question, and how that can build your program. That’s really where I am at this point- trying to develop my own research niche. I think that goal will keep me completely occupied for the next five years!
What has surprised you most about your career?
It sounds cliché and I was originally a skeptic, but it is truly exciting to have the freedom to explore your creativity.
What advice would you give to others to encourage them to apply for this grant funding?
I understand how difficult this career can be, and the challenges we all face in academia including the constant barrage of rejection. However, none of us will get awards or grants if we don’t apply, so I would encourage anyone considering this mechanism to just try.
Something you may not know about me is…
I’m originally from a small town in Eastern North Carolina near the Outer Banks, and sometimes I really miss being so close to the ocean.
In my free time I like to…
I truly love to travel and experience new places and cultures. Closer to home, I like to dabble in photography, enjoy the arts and have a slight obsession with politics.