An Update from the Pollak Lab
By Andrea Knob
We first checked in with the Pollak Lab and Andrea Knob—a genetic counselor and clinical research coordinator—about a year ago. Below is an update of their work, which receives funding from NephCure to study genetic causes of kidney diseases like FSGS and Nephrotic Syndrome. Patients and family members affected by FSGS and Nephrotic Syndrome are invited to participate in the Pollak Lab’s research. Please contact Andrea for more information.
As the holiday season approaches, we want to express our gratitude for the support of all of our patients and families, nephrology providers, and support networks including NephCure in the challenge to fight kidney disease. In the Pollak lab, we are working hard to identify and understand the genetic factors that may be contributing to the cause of kidney diseases such as FSGS (focal segmental glomerulosclerosis), Nephrotic Syndrome, unexplained proteinuria, and unexplained kidney failure in individuals and in families. We hope that by learning more about what causes these conditions, we can eventually help scientists discover better treatments with less side effects in the future.
Technology has been significantly improving over the years, and so has access to these technologies. We are able to look at genes and different variations of genes and study them in ways that were unimaginable decades ago. Genes (which we can think of as the “words” within DNA) are the instructions for the body to carry out its functions and give rise to traits. We look at genes related to the kidney in order to see if the instructions are what we expect or if there is variation. From there, we want to know whether a genetic variant is a normal part of the diversity from person to person or whether the genetic variant might be giving incorrect instructions for the kidney to function as it should.
Here at the Pollak lab, we have identified genetic variants (mutations) that we know are associated with kidney diseases such as FSGS, Nephrotic Syndrome, and related conditions. We have done a lot of work with genes such as ACTN4, NPHS2, TRPC6, INF2, and APOL1, for example. We want to know more about these genes and how they work, but we also think that there are other genetic mutations to be discovered.
Current genetic technologies allow us to study the actual genes, but we know that the stories from patients and families experiencing kidney disease is truly at the heart of the answers that we are seeking. If someone has a particular gene variant, what does that mean for that person? What are their exact symptoms? Do other people with the same gene variant have similar symptoms? What treatments have worked or have not worked? What additional factors (genetic, environmental, lifestyle) may be accounting for the differences from person to person and/or family to family?
To answer those questions, we have to rely on the generous contributions of time, information, and personal stories from patients, families, and providers which helps us to understand kidney disease in new ways and helps us to develop new ideas and strategies aimed at prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. We are truly indebted to all who have participated in our research this year and in the past, for without your generosity, we would not be able to do the work we do.
We also invite anyone to participate in our ongoing research, and we hope to team up with providers who care for individuals and/or families with FSGS, Nephrotic Syndrome, unexplained proteinuria, and/or kidney failure. We hope to continue our collaborative efforts and reach out to communities nationwide.
We invite you to contact us at any time whether you are a patient, family member, or friend looking to learn more about our research, a previous research participant following up with updated medical, family history, and/or contact information, or a nephrology provider interested in referring a patient(s) and/or collaborating. Our study is very simple and can be completed from home. To learn more about us, you can contact us by phone at 617-667-0467, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit our website by clicking here.