• Michael D. Donnan, MD

    2020 Ben J. Lipps Research Fellowship Recipient
    Michael D. Donnan, MD

    Michael D. Donnan, MD

    2020 Ben J. Lipps Research Fellowship Recipient

    How would you sum up your research in one sentence?

    My research goal is to define the mechanisms underlying the development of the many different specialized microvascular beds of the kidney with the aim to later target these pathways for therapeutic purposes to treat kidney diseases.

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

    The vascular endothelial growth factor tyrosine kinase receptor known as VEGFR3 has been linked to the development of kidney diseases, including cystic kidney disease and fibrosis. How changes in VEGFR3 signaling results in kidney disease and its progression is not yet known. In my preliminary research, I have found that VEGFR3 has dynamic expression throughout kidney development in several microvascular beds including the glomerulus, the ascending vasa recta, as well as the lymphatics. With this grant I will use newly generated knockout mouse models and in-vitro methods to determine the function of VEGFR3 in different vascular beds in the kidney.

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

    Chronic kidney disease is associated with pathological changes to the kidney vasculature which contribute to disease progression. Despite the recognized importance of vascular dysfunction in kidney disease, the mechanisms by which these changes occur are poorly understood, limiting therapeutic design. I hope to determine how VEGFR3 signaling regulates the development of the many unique microvascular beds in the kidney which will guide the development of therapeutics targeting this pathway for the treatment of kidney disease.

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

    My career goal is to combine my clinical knowledge in Internal Medicine and Nephrology with specialized training in vascular biology to become a physician-scientist with a research focus on kidney vascular biology. I hope to use the discoveries and training from this grant to next investigate how the kidney vasculature adapts in disease states. As junior faculty, I plan to continue to learn new scientific methods by pursuing mentored training under a career development award. Long term, my goal is to work as an independent investigator at an academic center, bridging the gap between clinical practice and collaborating with other scientists, to make innovative discoveries to improve our care for patients with kidney disease.

    What inspired you to focus your research in this area?

    During my training I became fascinated by the heterogeneity of the kidney vasculature. The kidney is a highly vascularized organ with a remarkable diversity of specialized microvascular beds to allow for glomerular filtration, urinary concentration, electrolyte homeostasis, and regulation of blood pressure. However, the molecular pathways responsible for the heterogeneous structural and functional properties of these specialized vascular beds are largely unknown—limiting rational therapeutic targeting and the development of bioengineered kidneys. There is a huge potential for discovery, and for benefiting our patients, in researching this area.

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

    If you have a project idea, developing a grant proposal is a great way to strengthen your ideas and solidify your research plan. You will also gain valuable feedback from the review panel comprised of experts in the field of nephrology. 

    Something you may not know about me is…

    I enjoy skiing and hiking in the Canadian Rockies.

    In my free time I like to…

    Go to the park with my two-year-old son, Nathan.