Grant: Ben J. Lipps Research Fellowship Award (2019)
Project Title: Pannexin 1 and Acute Kidney Injury
How would you sum up your research in one sentence?
My research is aimed at understanding mechanisms of acute kidney injury (AKI) that may serve as therapeutic targets for human AKI.
Provide a brief overview of the research you will conduct with help from the grant.
Pannexin1 (Panx1) channels are ATP release channels that have an important role in cell viability through controlling ATP trafficking. Based on our previous findings that inhibiting Panx1 channel protects against injury in a model of AKI - ischemia reperfusion injury (IRI), we will use genetic and pharmacological approaches to study the role of Panx1 in AKI models such as IRI and cisplatin-mediated nephrotoxicity. Cisplatin is a chemotherapeutic agent that is frequently associated with AKI. We will first assess renal function and kidney damage during experimental AKI in mice treated with various molecules that inhibit Panx1 channel before and/or after the onset of the injury. Next we will investigate the cellular and molecular mechanisms of Panx1 deficiency in conferring protection in AKI and cell survival in an in vitro cell culture model.
What impact do you hope your research will have on patients?
Currently, there are no FDA approved drugs for the treatment/management of AKI, partly due to complex pathophysiology of AKI. We hope to establish that Panx1 is an important molecule in the pathogenesis of AKI and that it may serve as an important target for drug development.
What are your short and long-term career goals?
I am very passionate about research and about dedicating my career to nephrology research. My short-term goals for the end of the grant period are to have developed fundamental skills to conduct high quality research, generated preliminary data, and built collaborations and eventually apply for career transition grants. However, my long-term goal is to transition to becoming an independent investigator in the field of AKI research and to train the next generation of investigators.
What inspired you to focus your research in this area?
The kidneys are incredibly complex organs that serve vital functions. When the kidneys become dysfunctional so does the body. We have much to learn about kidneys and that has hindered us from making progress. This is probably one reason I wanted to enter into the nephrology research space. My PhD research was more diverse and I think I have always had a soft heart towards kidney.
What are the major challenges to beginning a career in nephrology research today?
Today’s world is very fast paced, and every field is very competitive. Nephrology is no different than other science fields. Budget cuts have probably hit researchers the hardest. Low funding and high competition have forced many passionate researchers to seek alternative careers. I think finding a good mentor and joining an institution with an excellent research environment can be another problem. NIH and foundations like ASN have done a tremendous job in supporting early career researchers by providing funding opportunities and career-based training plans. Good examples are NIH T32 and F32 and ASN Foundation awards, but I think more could be done in terms of funding opportunities, eligibility criteria, and early career guidance, especially for foreign PhD researchers seeking to establish themselves as investigators.
Something you may not know about me is…
I almost didn’t go into nephrology research. I am glad I made this decision.
In my free time I like to…
Hike, seek new adventures, and reconnect with old friends.