September 2017 spotlight of the month
Kento Kitada, Ph.D.
Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Medicine, Kagawa University
1750-1 Ikenobe, Miki, Kita, Kagawa 761-0793, Japan
Tel: +81 87 891 2125
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
- How did you become interested in research relating to Hypertension?
Hypertension is near and dear to me. Both of my parents are hypertensive patients. You may be surprised to find out that I am also a hypertensive patient, diagnosed when I was 26 years old. So we are all using antihypertensive drugs and realizing the beneficial effects they have on our bodies, but at the same time there is still so much to know about this disease. This environment easily generated my interest in hypertension-related research.
- Describe your research & the program/lab (info of your supervisor) that you are in?
I’m working with Dr. Akira Nishiyama at Kagawa University, Japan, and Dr. Jens Titze at Vanderbilt University, USA. Our international collaborative team is researching a novel concept regarding salt and water balance in the body. Our concept will explain why dietary salt is a risk factor for obesity and diabetes as well as hypertension.
- What do you consider to be your substantial scientific contribution so far (provide Pubmed PMID if possible)?
The most substantial of my scientific contributions are ‘Increased salt consumption induces body water conservation and decreases fluid intake' J Clin Invest 2017; 127:1932-1943, (PMID: 28414302); and ‘High salt intake reprioritizes osmolyte and energy metabolism for body fluid conservation' J Clin Invest 2017; 127: 1944-1959, (PMID: 28414295). We opened a new field in the area of salt and water balance research.
- What is your favourite manuscript from a lab or mentor other than your own (provide Pubmed PMID if possible)?
I was very excited by ‘Reduced osmotically inactive Na storage capacity and hypertension in the Dahl model' Am J Physiol Renal Physiol 2002; 283: F134-F141, (PMID: 12060595). This paper made me decide to go on an overseas study program and start working on salt and water balance research in Jens Titze’s lab.
- What facilities are essential for your research?
Kagawa University, Japan; Vanderbilt University Medical Center, USA; and Duke-NUS Medical School and IMB/A*STAR, Singapore.
- Where do your research strengths lie? Why? What are your research weaknesses? How will you improve?
We are creating a new concept and have come up with novel research questions based on an ultra-long term salt and water balance study in humans (PMID: 28414302). We could test and prove the human study-derived hypothesis in animal studies (PMID: 28414295). This background is one of our research strengths.
One of our research weaknesses is that basal renal function is extremely different between humans and mice, since the mouse is a desert animal. Thus, in our research, we would need an unphysiological amount of salt to see the effects of dietary salt in mice.
We have to understand the difference between mice and humans as well as the limitations of animal experiments. In addition, we need to think about alternative models and, once we find the best one, establish this novel animal model in order to avoid misinterpretations due to the species difference.
- Describe your unforgettable (proudest) moment in science, and the most challenging situation that you have had to overcome (lessons learnt) so far?
I will never forget the moment when I saw the data from the ultra-long term salt and water balance study in humans. In the study, a 12g/d high-salt diet clearly decreased water intake. That was really unbelievable and exciting because we couldn’t explain this phenomenon through the current textbook concept. Everyone believes that salt makes us thirsty, but this ‘truth’ may be wrong. Salt does not make us thirsty, but instead makes us hungry! (PMID: 28414302 and 28414295)
My biggest challenge was the international study program in the USA. It was the first time I came to the USA from Japan for a challenging new research project and postdoctoral education. I had to establish and start a research project from zero.
Although I had a language problem, I was not afraid of anything, opened my mind to everyone, and made real friendships with the lab members because of my mentor’s excellent mentorship. Together we established the novel research project, made real progress due to great communication with our colleagues and all in all I became part of a great research team.
- At which conference did you first present? How was your experience?
My first presentation (English, oral) was at the Council for High Blood Pressure Research, AHA, 2011. My talk was fine but I couldn’t answer the audience's questions very well because of my limited English. However, this experience was an important challenge for me as a young Ph.D. student, and, in fact, also influenced my decision to go on an overseas postdoctoral program.
- What upcoming conferences will you be attending, and what is the furthest distance that you have traveled for a conference?
At the moment, I’m not sure about upcoming conferences because I’m moving to my next post, Duke-NUS Medical School and IMB/A*STAR in Singapore.
- How did you learn about ISH/NIN and its activities?
One of my mentors, Akira Nishiyama, told me about ISH/NIN and their activities.
- What area(s) do you wish to specialize in the future?
The effects of salt and water balance on hypertension and metabolic disorders.
- Who is your role model in Science? Why?
The answer is all scientists, or perhaps none. I believe everyone has a different situation, career, and contribution in science, and I respect all of them. Of course, I want to be one of the new role models in our research field based on ‘my model’.
- What are your scientific goals? Advice for talented emerging scientists?
My long-term scientific goal is the understanding of salt and water balance in our body and the establishment of a novel therapy for cardiovascular, renal, and metabolic disorders based on our novel concept.
My advice for young scientists is ‘open your mind’, ‘make real friendships’ and ‘jump into the world’.