What are your research interests?
In short, my group is interested in the functional genomics of kidney diseases and their cardiometabolic complications. We perform functional follow-up of discovery results from human-based studies. Because kidney disease and its cardiovascular complications are complex traits not well modeled in mice, we focus on targets that are human-specific. For example, we are interested in elucidating the functions of long non-coding RNAs that are poorly conserved across species but that may have causal relevance in human disease. We have also been using human stem cell-derived 3D kidney organoids to model the primate-specific APOL1 nephropathy, followed by single-cell RNA-sequencing of these organoids to elucidate novel biology, such as dysregulated ER stress in the presence of risk-variant APOL1.
What is the ultimate goal of your research?
The mission of my lab is to leverage human discovery-based data to identify novel therapeutic targets to slow and reverse the progression of kidney disease. As a physician-scientist in nephrology, I am inspired to use functional genomics to expand our clinical toolbox for kidney health. Over the past two decades, translation of new therapies for the kidney to the bedside has been slow, but I hope that with increasing availability of genetic and transcriptomic data, development of three-dimensional kidney cell culture models, and accessibility of scalable genome editing, my group will be able to contribute cutting-edge research poised for eventual translation back to clinic.
What types of collaborations are you engaged in across campus (and beyond)?
Functional genomics, by its nature, requires collaborative efforts. My group currently collaborates with Benjamin Freedman, PhD, at the University of Washington for modeling genetic diseases with kidney organoids, Benjamin Humphreys, MD, PhD, at Washington University in St. Louis for single-cell RNA-sequencing approaches, and Mingyao Li, PhD, at the University of Pennsylvania for statistical methods in analyzing single-cell RNA-sequencing data.
How did you become interested in this area of research?
As a physician-scientist, I am inspired to take a deep dive into science for my patients. I've always been bothered by the differences between human and mouse that drive the gap in clinical translation for kidney disease. To circumvent these differences, my group focuses not on what is conserved, but rather what is different across species.
How is your research funded?
As an early career investigator, I am currently an NIH-KO8 awardee, soon to be embarking on the K to R transition.
Who inspires you?
I am inspired by Jennifer Doudna, PhD, of the University of California, Berkeley, who was one of the scientists integral to the repurposing of CRISPR for genome editing. In one of her recent talks, she explained that she still wants to figure out how molecules work and still holds a genuine passion for science that has not been diluted by her scientific fame and success.