Grant: Jared J. Grantham Research Fellowship (2019)
Project Title: Patient-Derived Kidney Organoids
How would you sum up your research in one sentence?
My research is focused on developing new ways of growing and studying kidney tissue from patients, to better understand processes in the kidney, kidney diseases, and potential treatments.
Provide a brief overview of the research you will conduct with help from the grant.
Current methodologies for the study of cellular processes contributing to disease rely on traditional two dimensional culture of immortalized cell lines, a technique that loses the spatial relationships and cellular interactions between the multiple cell types present in vivo. The development of long term primary culture of multiple cell types that preserves tissue ultrastructure would allow for more accurate disease modeling in studying molecular pathophysiology and for development of novel therapeutic agents. My research seeks to establish a 3D organoid culture of primary kidney tissue. This work will allow the future study of key pathways in renal diseases and is a more broadly enabling technology for the advancement of nephrology research.
What impact do you hope your research will have on patients?
I hope that my proposed research will serve as a platform to ask further questions and to gain new insights into kidneys and kidney disease. One day, though probably far in the future, I hope these new insights can be applied to providing a better understanding of how to regenerate or grow kidney tissue with the goal of helping to alleviate the increasing burden of chronic kidney disease on patients.
What are your short and long-term career goals?
Over the course of the grant period, my goal is to be able to dedicate more of my time to hands on research in the lab so that I can gain new insights and ultimately publish and share my results with others. I also hope to participate in educational and advocacy opportunities through speaking to a variety of audiences from patients and families to other physicians and researchers, attending conferences, such as ASN Kidney Week, and meeting with elected officials to share the importance of attention to kidney disease and research.
Long term, my goal is to obtain a faculty position as a pediatric nephrologist and researcher, at an academic institution where I can perform NIH funded research, as well as maintain clinical practice in pediatric nephrology. I envision myself being able to better the lives of patients across multiple domains: through direct patient clinical care, work in patient advocacy and education, and basic science and translational research.
What inspired you to focus your research in this area?
I was diagnosed with kidney disease at the age of 10 and have lived with it as a daily part of my life since. However, it wasn’t until I was in graduate school and volunteering at a camp for kids with kidney disease that I really knew my life’s work would be in pediatric nephrology. I hope to apply my personal experiences with kidney disease, background as a PhD in biomedical engineering, and training as a pediatric nephrologist to advancing the field of nephrology.
What are the major challenges to beginning a career in nephrology research today?
Clinical demands are high within nephrology, both for adult and pediatric nephrologists, and it is often difficult for young investigators to have sufficient protected time needed to develop new ideas and to explore novel areas of investigation within nephrology. With so many competing demands on our time and attention and with the delayed gratification of research, it is often easy to be discouraged by setbacks on the road to a career in nephrology research, leading one to choose to devote one’s time and efforts elsewhere.
Something you may not know about me is…
I have 4 kidneys.
In my free time I like to…
Spend time with friends and family, eat delicious food (particularly dessert), swim, and enjoy live performances including music, dance, and theater