• Alla Mitrofanova, PhD

    2021 Carl W. Gottschalk Research Scholar Grant
    Alla Mitrofanova, PhD

    Alla Mitrofanova, PhD

    2021 Carl W. Gottschalk Research Scholar Grant

    Institution: University of Miami

    Project Title: STING as a Potential Therapeutic Target for Diabetic Kidney Disease


    How would you sum up your research in one sentence?

    My current research focuses on studying the role of the DNA-sensing pathways of the innate immunity to grant proper kidney function in context of diabetic kidney disease and focal segmental glomerulosclerosis. 

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

    This scientific project proposes to elucidate a novel nucleotide-driven mechanism of innate immune system activation, thus providing a unique link between mitochondrial dysfunction and cGAS-STING pathway activation in podocytes. Findings derived from this proposal may lead to new therapeutic options by targeting circulating DNA and/or cGAS-STING in DKD.

    What inspired you to focus your research in this area?

    I was inspired to become a researcher in nephrology irreversibly by Dr. Alessia Fornoni, who is an amazing mentor, supportive boss, and a good friend. To focus my research particularly in the area of DNA-sensing pathways of the innate immunity in podocytes, I got an inspiration from Dr. George Burke, another great mentor and a transplant surgeon. In our quite philosophical conversations, Dr. Burke has challenged me asking to explain the underlying biochemical processes at the molecular level of some observations in his clinical practice. I accepted this challenge as I see that our common efforts may lead to discovery of a druggable target and ending with the identification of a drug amenable to treat patients with kidney disease.

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

    Ultimately, my work will lead to the discovery of new therapeutic targets and targeting strategies for the treatment of patients with kidney disease, and it will aid at improving the lives of millions of people affected by chronic kidney diseases.

    What has surprised you most about your career?

    People and the scientific environment have surprised me the most. I feel blessed and I am very happy to be a part of a such a self-dedicate community of people fighting against kidney diseases every day. 

    What are the major challenges facing nephrology research today?

    In my opinion, the major challenge that nephrology research face today involves social justice. Many patients are more scared to know that they have cancer than a kidney disease, many foundations are more open to support cancer research than studies in nephrology. 

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

    This is my whole-career-changing step. Being an awardee of this prestigious grant gives me a strong self-confidence in the science I do, and it opens the door wide to reach my dream to become an independent researcher. 

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

    "How long should you try? Until." © Jim Rohn. Try to apply this grant funding opportunity to see if this is yours "until". 

    Something you may not know about me is…

    I am a mom of two 14-months-apart children, who help me to be even more organized and efficient to balance my personal life and academic activities.

    In my free time I like to…

    In my free time I like to draw and take a flight on a small aircraft with my husband, who is a private pilot, to catch some shots from the bird's eye view.