Evan C. Ray, MD, PhD
Evan C. Ray, MD, PhD
2021 Carl W. Gottschalk Research Scholar Grant
Institution: University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Project Title: The Role of Muc1 in Divalent Cation Homeostasis
How would you sum up your research in one sentence?
Our research team is focused on understanding how the mucin, Muc1 influences homeostasis of divalent minerals and how that influences systemic physiology.
Provide a brief overview of the research you will conduct with help from the grant.
We will examine the influence of Muc1 deletion on divalent cations including Ca2+ and Mg2+ on bone density in mice and in their offspring. Previous in vivo studies have failed to identify a significant impact of Muc1 on mineral homeostasis or bone density, potentially as a consequence of physiologic compensation in mice lacking Muc1. The importance of Muc1 in this physiology may be revealed by physiologic stress. Lactation represents such a stress. During lactation, females dramatically enhance renal and enteric conservation of Ca2+ and Mg2+. This allows female mice to provide nursing pups with nearly half of their adult bone mineral stores in the first two weeks of life. We are examining whether Muc1 is required for adequate renal and intestinal Ca2+ and Mg2+ conservation during lactation and the consequences of Muc1 insufficiency on bone density in dams and in their pups.
What impact do you hope your research will have on patients?
These studies provide a mechanism to explain how a common Muc1 polymorphism may influence mineral metabolism and bone density and the specific physiologic contexts in which polymorphism is relevant to human health. As we move toward precision medicine with more readily available genetic information in patients, we will be able to identify patients at risk of osteoporosis, nephrolithiasis, or dental disease, allowing early intervention. Finally, these findings may have implications for mineral physiology patients with autosomal dominant tubule-interstitial kidney disease secondary to MUC1 mutation.
What are your career goals at the end of the grant period? Five years out? Ten years out?
I am actively building a research team. (We are looking for T-32-eligible post-docs!) By the end of the ASN Transition to Independence award period, I plan to have at least one R01-level research award to continue to support our studies. In the next five years, I hope to expand our research activities to better understand the systemic effects of mineral depletion on cardiovascular health, both in individuals and in their progeny.
What has surprised you most about your career?
In school, science is often taught as dogma. It can be challenging for students to appreciate how little we know. Even in medical training, it is easy to feel as if all of the important questions have been asked and answered. It has astonished me how far this is from the truth. The old maxim "the more I learn, the more I realize I don't know" is just as applicable to our field as it is to any individual.
In one sentence, please describe the importance of having grant funding available through KidneyCure.
The KidneyCure award came along for me at just the right time. NIH K award funding was running out, and I was going to experience challenges in funding my laboratory. The KidneyCure award will dramatically improve the likelihood that I can progress to R-level funding. Honestly, receiving an ASN KidneyCure award provides some reassurance that our research group is headed in the right direction, asking questions that insightful people find interesting.
Something you may not know about me is…
I'm truly terrible at golf. Really, really terrible. That's why I haven't tried it in ten years.
In my free time I like to…
Bike, read non-fiction, tinker in the kitchen (It's just like the lab, but I don't have to keep notes and I get to eat my results).