February 2017 spotlight of the month
Instructor of Medicine at Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA (Department of Medicine, Renal Division)
- How did you become interested in research relating to Hypertension?
I have always been interested in cardiovascular and pulmonary physiology. As a PhD student, all my rotations were in renal or cardiovascular laboratories, and I was already interested in hypertension. After joining the laboratory of Dr. Clinton Webb at Medical College of Georgia, I chose hypertension as the focus of my PhD dissertation. I had no doubts at that time I would continue in the area, and I still enjoy reading new literature on the subject daily.
- Describe your research & the program/lab (info of your supervisor) that you are in?
I am currently investigating the role of inflammation in salt-sensitive hypertension; namely, how renal-specific immune cells increase the pro-inflammatory milieu. My research has found a novel mechanism for cytokine-mediated transactivation of the mineralocorticoid receptor, which increases sodium transporter activity and expression.
Previously, I worked with Dr. Robert Hoover as a postdoctoral fellow, where we focused on the hormonal regulation of the sodium chloride cotransporter (NCC). Recently we have described an exciting interaction between NCC and the epithelial sodium channel (ENaC) in the distal nephron.
- What do you consider to be your substantial scientific contribution so far (provide Pubmed PMID if possible)?
I’m excited to say that my first paper based on my current work is in revision, and I believe it will be my most substantial contribution so far. In this manuscript, we demonstrate a role for interleukin 6 (IL-6)-mediated activation of the mineralocorticoid receptor (MR), leading to increased activity and expression of NCC. We believe this work illustrates a possible new mechanism for sodium retention during situations of low aldosterone.
- What is your favourite manuscript from a lab or mentor other than your own (provide Pubmed PMID if possible)?
That’s a really difficult question, and I would consider it a tie between two classic papers. The first was one by Crowley and colleagues “Distinct roles for the kidney and systemic tissues in blood pressure regulation by the renin-angiotensin system” (PMID: 15841186), which was one of the first papers that really made me excited to study the regulation of blood pressure as a PhD student.
The second was one of the first papers to show a direct correlation between immune cells and hypertension by Guzik and colleagues, “Role of the T cell in the genesis of angiotensin II induced hypertension and vascular dysfunction” (PMID: 17875676).
The last paper, a personal favorite, discusses the ethnopharmacology of ‘zombification’ in Haiti. Everyone needs to have some ‘pleasure reading’. “Natural Products from Ethnodirected Studies: Revisiting the Ethnobiology of the Zombie Poison”.
- Where do your research strengths lie? Why? What are your research weaknesses? How will you improve?
I think my strengths probably lie in my determination and my imagination; I love coming up with new ideas and projects. I think focus would definitely be a weakness, and the only way I have found to improve in this has been to remove extraneous events and activities that limit my ability to focus.
- Describe your unforgettable (proudest) moment in science, and the most challenging situation that you have had to overcome (lessons learnt) so far?
Last year at Experimental Biology, one of my students won multiple awards from two different societies. Seeing her excitement as she discussed our work, and receive her awards was one of the proudest moments I have had.
After receiving some negative comments on a recent grant submission, I had to take a step back and recognize those weaknesses in my own science. Not taking those comments personally has been a challenge for me. I wouldn’t say that I have completely overcome this challenge, but I am diligently trying.
- At which conference did you first present? How was your experience?
My first poster presentation was at Experimental Biology as a master’s student. My first oral presentation was at the American Heart Association Council for High Blood Pressure Meeting in Atlanta GA (2008), during one of the workshop sessions. Although I was a little anxious before the talk, I found that I truly enjoyed public speaking.
- What upcoming conferences will you be attending, and what is the furthest distance that you have traveled for a conference?
The next conference I will attend will be the Experimental Biology (EB) meeting in April 2017 in Chicago IL. EB is a joint meeting of multiple societies, including the American Physiological Society.
The furthest would be the International Society of Hypertension meeting in Seoul this past year.
- How did you learn about ISH/NIN and its activities?
I participated in a joint NIN/AHA event at the Council for High Blood Pressure meeting in New Orleans LA (2013); however, recently I was introduced to other active members (Drs. Richard Wainford and Guto Montezano) who spoke highly of the NIN and the organization. At that point, I became more interested and sought out activities to become more involved.
- What area(s) do you wish to specialize in the future?
I have been interested in inflammation and hypertension for quite some time, and believe I will continue to focus on these areas.
- Who is your role model in Science? Why?
Unfortunately, there have been too many to specify. I’m very lucky to have had many wonderful mentors, and they have all played a significant role in my academic career.
- What are your scientific goals? Advice for talented emerging scientists?
My current goals all revolve around obtaining scientific independence, including obtaining funding.
My only advice would be to find a subject that you truly enjoy, and then realize that you’ll fail much more than you will succeed. My PhD mentor told me the latter, and this statement continues to be correct.