• Mariia Alibekova

    2020 Pre-Doctoral Fellowship Award Recipient
    Mariia Alibekova

    Mariia Alibekova

    2020 Pre-Doctoral Fellowship Award Recipient

    How would you sum up your research in one sentence? 

    We work on new technology to measure thousands of proteins in single cells to understand development and disease, and we focus on kidney development in particular.

    Provide a brief overview of the research you will conduct with help from the grant. 

    We hypothesize that the cell microenvironment and proportion of progenitor cells present affects differentiation, spatial organization, and homogeneity of kidney tissue. We will use kidney "organoids" with different starting proportions of kidney cells to look at differentiating cells at the level of functional proteins. Our overall objective is to better understand the drivers of kidney tissue organization. 

    What impact do you hope your research will have on patients? 

    Our long-term goal is to develop kidney organoid models that are homogeneous and better model congenital abnormalities of kidney and urinary tract (CAKUT) in order to screen for therapeutic interventions targeting nephron regeneration. 

    What are your career goals at the end of the grant period? Five years out? Ten years out? 

    At the end of the grant period, I hope to obtain a high-resolution snapshot of the post-translational landscape of kidney organoid differentiation process. Five years out, my goal is to enter the clinical stage of my MD-PhD curriculum and focus on developing patient care skills. Ten years out, my goal is to start a regenerative medicine lab that focuses on understanding tissue morphogenesis from both biochemical and mechanistic perspective with the goal to apply this knowledge to guide tissue and organ regeneration to help patients in need. 

    What inspired you to focus your research in this area? 

    During my current work in a developmental engineering laboratory of Dr. Alex Hughes, I became aware of the prevalence and severity of congenital abnormalities of kidney and urinary tract and their effect on patient quality of life. As nephrogenesis is completed before birth and shortly after birth, the individual is left with a set of nephrons that will not change throughout lifetime. The current treatment of end stage kidney disease, kidney transplant, is frequently not the most viable strategy due to shortage of donor organs and immune compatibility. This problem sparked my interest in application of the organoid models of kidney development and disease to study kidney regeneration and tissue-engineering based therapeutics for CAKUT and other congenital kidney abnormalities. 

    What are the major challenges to beginning a career in kidney research today? 

    There are so many intriguing questions due to the complexity of the kidney, therefore there is also a highly compelling need for innovation and discovery. I am very excited to have an opportunity to contribute to kidney knowledge and, hopefully, to the improvement of kidney health in the long term.

    What advice would you give to others to encourage them to apply for this grant funding? 

    If you have a research idea that you believe can benefit kidney health, do not give up, your ideas are needed. Write the proposal and follow your passion!

    Something you may not know about me is… 

    I am a huge Star Trek Next Generation fan. 

    In my free time I like to… 

    bake. It is a great way to channel creative energy and share a tasty treat with family and friends afterwards!