Christian Faul, Ph.D.

NephCure Established Investigator Awardee

From very early on in high school Christian Faul, Ph.D. was interested in biology and chemistry and in the genetic mechanisms underlying human diseases. Therefore, he decided to focus on molecular and cell biology and biochemistry for his undergraduate studies. In graduate school he continued to intensify his studies in understanding how cells communicate with each other and respond to external signals and how these communication pathways are altered under disease conditions.

Miami, Florida

University of Miami

Lay Summary of the Project:

Cyclosporine A (CsA) is a drug that is known to modulate the immune system and to induce remission of protein loss with the urine (also termed “proteinuria”) caused by diseases like Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis. Therefore, CsA is widely used in the treatment of patients with nephrotic syndrome. The effect of CsA on cells is caused by the inhibition of an enzyme called “calcineurin”. Calcineurin is not only present in immune cells, but also in podocytes of the kidney. Podocytes are the major component of the kidney filter barrier between the blood and the urine and safeguards the body against proteinuria. We have found that CsA treatment protects mouse models for nephrotic syndrome from developing proteinuria. This effect derives from a direct action of CsA on podocytes, and is independent from its effect on immune cells. We are currently analyzing the precise calcineurin signaling pathway in podocytes to better understand its involvement in the cause and progression of nephrotic syndrome. Unfortunately, calcineurin is present in every cell of the human body. Therefore, CsA does not only affect podocytes and kidney filter function, but also other cell types explaining the multiple side effects of CsA treatment. The goal of this study is to identify podocyte specific aspects of this disease causing signaling pathway, that will help us to find a drug that can be more effective in the treatment of nephrotic syndrome while at the same time having less side effects than CsA.


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