• Eirini Kefalogianni, PhD

    2021 Carl W. Gottschalk Research Scholar Grant
    Eirini Kefalogianni, PhD

    Eirini Kefalogianni, PhD

    2021 Carl W. Gottschalk Research Scholar Grant

    Institution: Washington University in St. Louis

    Project Title: Immunomodulatory Roles of Circulating TNFR1/2 in Diabetic Nephropathy


    How would you sum up your research in one sentence?

    I am interested in the cellular and molecular mechanisms of kidney disease, in particular the communication between kidney cells and immune cells, which is critical for the regulation of kidney injury, repair and fibrosis in both acute and chronic kidney disease settings.

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

    The overall goal of this project is to characterize the forms and immunomodulatory functions of circulating Tumor-Necrosis-Factor-Receptors 1 and 2 (TNFR1/2) in human diabetic nephropathy. Circulating TNFR1/2 levels are associated with early glomerular lesions in type 2 diabetes and they act as very strong predictors of chronic kidney disease (CKD) progression in patients with diabetic nephropathy or other causes of CKD; however, their physiological roles are not known. I will examine whether circulating TNFR1/2 have immunomodulatory functions in the activation of immune cells in diabetic nephropathy that could be therapeutically exploited.

    What inspired you to focus your research in this area?

    It is intriguing that, although the predictive value of circulating TNFR1/2 as CKD progression markers is known for more than nine years, their physiological roles still remain unknown. With my research, I hope to gain a better mechanistic understanding of their functions and leverage this knowledge to design much needed novel therapeutic approaches for CKD patients.

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

    Results from this study could spurn the development of drugs that target TNFR1/2 or their pathway components for the prevention or treatment of CKD secondary to diabetes or other causes.

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

    After five years, I expect to successfully run a fully independent research lab that makes significant contributions in the field of kidney disease. In ten years, I hope that my future trainees would be starting their own independent careers!

    What has surprised you most about your career?

    Before I worked in the nephrology field, I was not aware of how prevalent and devastating kidney disease is, or how many key questions on the mechanisms of kidney disease progression remain unanswered. I hope that my research endeavors will have a significant positive impact on many patients' lives.

    In one sentence, please describe the importance of having grant funding available through KidneyCure.

    KidneyCure grants provide substantial financial support to early career scientists during the critical phase of transitioning to an independent research career. With the current funding conditions, in particular in the nephrology field, such support is critical for attracting or maintaining qualified scientists in this field.

    Something you may not know about me is…

    that I am originally from Greece, my favorite destination for summer vacations!

    In my free time I like to…

    enjoy the outdoors (hiking, swimming, grilling) with friends and family!