2021 ASN Pre-Doctoral Fellowship Award
Institution: Purdue University Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, Indiana University School of Medicine
Project Title: Identifying the Role of the Interstitial Extracellular Matrix Network During Murine Renal Development
How would you sum up your research in one sentence?
We are studying how components of the extracellular matrix, the network of proteins and glycosaminoglycans surrounding cells, contribute to kidney development.
Provide a brief overview of the research you will conduct with help from the grant.
The extracellular matrix in the kidney forms dynamic fibrous 3D structures that change with development; however, the role of these structures is unclear. To assess this, we are studying how the fibrous structures remodel in the setting of aberrant nephrogenesis using a model where the cell which synthesizes this fibrous ECM is abnormal. Additionally, we are investigating how these structures affect nephrogenesis using a model where one of these fibrous ECM proteins is ablated.
What impact do you hope your research will have on patients?
By better understanding the structure, composition, and mechanics of the extracellular matrix, this information can be used as a template for tissue engineering applications. Tissue engineers aim to develop patient-specific kidney disease models to study disease pathophysiology and potential treatment options, but efforts have been limited by poor differentiation of these models. We hypothesize models that incorporate the developmental extracellular matrix properties, which will be investigated in the proposed studies, will improve the efficacy of these engineered tissues.
What are your career goals at the end of the grant period? Five years out? Ten years out?
Overall, my interest is in understanding tissue organization and the structure-function relationship in developmental disorders of the kidney, potentially focusing on the extracellular matrix. I am in the graduate phase of the Indiana University – Purdue medical scientist training program, and in five years I aim to be in residency training with the goal of being a pediatric nephrologist. Longer-term, I aim to be a physician-scientist treating pediatric patients with kidney disease and leading a research laboratory focusing on understanding the disease pathophysiology these patients face.
What inspired you to focus your research in this area?
I was initially fascinated by the kidney in an undergraduate physiology class, and this interest was enhanced by an NIH-NIDDK- KUH summer research program and ASN's Kidney TREKS (Tutored Research and Education for Kidney Scholars) program. I became interested in learning more about how the structure of the kidney forms during development after my medical school clinical experiences. To combine these interests, my research mentor (Dr. Sarah Calve, PhD) gave me the flexibility to branch into the kidney to study developmental extracellular matrix composition and organization using techniques developed in her lab with the guidance of my clinical mentors (Drs. Hains and Schwaderer, MD).
What advice would you give to others to encourage them to apply for this grant funding?
It is important to have a supportive mentoring team who provide both encouragement and critique the experimental plan and descriptions.
Something you may not know about me is…
I love listening to audiobooks and musical soundtracks while imaging on the confocal microscope.
In my free time I like to…
I enjoy ballet, hiking, and creating with paints.