2015 NephCure Award Recipients
Jochen Reiser, M.D., Ph.D.
Discovery of therapeutic leads for treating FSGS using a novel podocyte-based HTS assay
Dr. Jochen Reiser and his colleague, Dr. Vineet Gupta, at Rush University developed a laboratory process that may lead to new candidates for drug development for Nephrotic Syndrome. The podocyte is a specialized cell in the filtering unit of the kidney that is damaged in diseases like FSGS. Using an innovative cell analyzer called ‘Opera’, Drs. Reiser and Gupta plan to put down layers of podocytes on a specialized cellular ‘platform.” Then, they will subject these cells to stimuli that may cause injury as seen in the kidneys of patients with FSGS. The objective of this experiment is to examine how podocytes behave under selective stimuli, resulting in scarring or cell death. If standardized changes can be demonstrated, then libraries of drug compounds, and specifically those that are known to interfere with these specific cellular and molecular changes, could be screened as possible targets for drug development.
NephCure Kidney International-Neptune Ancillary Studies Grant
Joshua M. Thurman, M.D.
Innate Immune Mechanisms of FSGS Progression
Dr. Joshua Thurman at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus has been selected to receive the inaugural NKI-Neptune Ancillary Studies Grant: a grant program that supports investigator-initiated studies that employ NEPTUNE resources to advance research in glomerular disease. By looking for novel markers of inflammation in patients with FSGS, Dr. Thurman plans to investigate whether novel markers of inflammation in patients with FSGS can be identified. Most of the drugs currently used to treat FSGS work by blocking the body’s immune system, but these treatments do not work in all patients. At the moment, it is completely unclear how the immune system causes kidney damage in FSGS or how to identify those patients most likely to respond to immunosuppressive treatment. Dr. Thurman believes that in some patients with FSGS there are antibodies (an important part of the immune system) that bind to the kidney and damage it, and the treatments that block the immune system work because they may reduce this antibody. Through animal model studies, his laboratory has discovered that one type of antibody, IgM, binds to kidney cells and injures them. They have also developed methods for detecting this antibody in the bloodstream. His project will use blood samples that have previously been collected from patients with FSGS as part of the Neptune study, and they will be tested whether the disease-associated IgM can be detected in patients with FSGS. They will also test whether the presence of IgM is associated with other signs of inflammation. The results of this research may aid in the development of methods for identifying patients who will benefit from treatment with immunosuppressive drugs, and also novel therapies for blocking inflammation in these patients.
NephCure Kidney International: ASN Foundation for Kidney Research Grant
Evren Azeloglu, Ph.D.
Mechanosensitive control of podocyte cytoskeleton and remodeling
Hypertension is one of the major drivers of kidney disease. However, the physical mechanisms through which high blood pressure affects nephrotic syndrome are not well known. Dr. Azeloglu plans to utilize engineering methods to investigate the structural properties of the cells of the kidney glomeruli during healthy and diseased conditions. This project will be conducted in hypertensive animal models with a nanotechnology platform. He will explore how kidney cells retain their structural integrity against mechanical injury (i.e. due to high blood pressure) and identify potential genes that may be responsible for maintenance of the healthy cellular structure under hypertension. This project aims to use state-of-the-art bioinformatics and nanotechnology tools to link the structural integrity of glomerular cells to overall kidney function. The results of this research may directly translate into treatable drug targets that can improve the resilience of kidney cells against high blood pressure, and slow down the progression of chronic kidney disease.