Katrina Mirabito Colafella, PhD

Position: CJ Martin Early Career Research Fellow, National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (NHMRC).
Joint appointment Erasmus Medical Centre, Rotterdam, The Netherlands and Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.

Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Division of Vascular Medicine and Pharmacology, Department of Internal Medicine, Erasmus MC, Wytemaweg 80, 3015 CN Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Email: k.colafella@erasmusmc.nl

Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
Department of Physiology, Biomedicine Discovery Institute, 26 Innovation Walk, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, 3800, Australia. Email: katrina.mirabito@monash.edu

  • How did you become interested in research relating to Hypertension?

    During my bachelor degree, I completed Professor Kate Denton’s physiology unit, PHY3171 Clinical and Experimental Cardiovascular Physiology, at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia. As a part of the course, we had to evaluate the scientific literature on a research topic under the guidance of a researcher in that field. I chose one of Professor Denton’s research areas, sex differences in hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

    I was fascinated by this area of research and at that time the Denton lab had just published a paper in Hypertension demonstrating that in response to a low dose infusion of angiotensin II arterial pressure was paradoxically decreased in adult female rats and that this same dose had no effect on arterial pressure in males (Sampson et al, Hypertension. 2008.52(4):666-71).

    I knew at this point that I had found something that I was passionate about. I was fortunate to complete my Honours and PhD research projects under Professor Denton’s supervision, where I investigated the role of the angiotensin type 2 receptor in the regulation of arterial pressure in females during pregnancy and post-menopause.

  • Describe your research & the program/lab (info of your supervisor) that you are in?

    I am currently entering the second year of my post-doc in Professor Jan Danser’s lab at Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands. My research is investigating the link between angiogenesis inhibition and the endothelin-1 system in the pathogenesis of preeclampsia and angiogenesis-inhibitor induced hypertension in cancer patients, which have the same clinical phenotype. This project will contribute to our understanding of preeclampsia, leading to the identification of novel treatments and biomarkers for preeclampsia and also cardiovascular disease.

    I was awarded a CJ Martin Early Career Fellowship from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (NHMRC), which supports my post-doc in Prof Danser’s lab for 2 years and also for 2 years back in Australia.

  • What do you consider to be your substantial scientific contribution so far (provide Pubmed PMID if possible)?

    My most substantial scientific contribution so far is my PhD work:

    Mirabito et al, Hypertension. 2014 64(3):626-31. (PMID: 24935937)
    Mirabito et al, Biology of Sex Differences. 2014 5:13. (PMID: 25774285)
    Mirabito et al, AJP Renal. 2014. 207(8):F901-7. (PMID: 25164079) *Awarded AJP Renal Paper of the Year for 2014
    Mirabito Colafella et al 2016. Clinical Science. 2016 130(10):761-771. (PMID: 27128801)

    Collectively, these studies demonstrated that the angiotensin type 2 receptor plays a key role in the lower arterial pressure observed in adult female as compared to age-matched male mice. Moreover, my work demonstrated that deficits in angiotensin type 2 receptor expression and/or signalling contributes to pregnancy-induced hypertension and post-menopausal hypertension. Thus, the angiotensin type 2 receptor may represent a novel anti-hypertensive target.

  • What is your favourite manuscript from a lab or mentor other than your own (provide Pubmed PMID if possible)?

    One of my favourite papers is Gant et al. J Clin Invest. 1973.52(11):2682-9. (PMID: 4355997).

    This was one of the first studies to demonstrate that pregnant women are resistant to the pressor effects of angiotensin II. In this study, almost twice the concentration of angiotensin II needed to be infused to produce a 20 mmHg increase in blood pressure in normotensive pregnant women as compared to non-pregnant women.

  • What facilities are essential for your research?

    Departments of Physiology and Pharmacology, Flowcore, Monash University; Departments of Internal Medicine, Histology, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Nephrology, Erasmus MC.

  • Where do your research strengths lie? Why? What are your research weaknesses? How will you improve? 

    I think my strengths lie in my love of being in the lab, generating new data and sharing novel findings.

    My weakness is probably writing grant proposals. Rejection is hard. I think it will be a matter of practice and not taking the rejection personally.

  • Describe your unforgettable (proudest) moment in science, and the most challenging situation that you have had to overcome (lessons learnt) so far?

    My proudest moment to date was winning the Early Career Oral Award Session at the recent AHA Council on Hypertension meeting in San Francisco.

    The most challenging situation that I have had to overcome was moving overseas for my post-doc position. It was very scary leaving Monash University, where I had been for my whole tertiary career, and going to work overseas in a new environment. Luckily, we have the best lab, everyone is very nice and helpful and we are working on some great projects so I found my feet in the lab very quickly. Plus, everyone speaks English, which is great because my Dutch is terrible!

  • At which conference did you first present? How was your experience?

    My first conference was the High Blood Pressure Research Council of Australia (HBPRCA) Annual Scientific Meeting where I had a poster presentation.

    My first talk at an international conference was the International Society of Hypertension meeting in 2012. My talk was in a pregnancy session and I did really well but I was so nervous because Professors Joey Granger, Annemarie Hennessy and Eugenie Lumbers were in the audience. I also had a poster at the International Society of Hypertension New Investigator Network Satellite Meeting and I won my first poster prize.

  • What upcoming conferences will you be attending, and what is the furthest distance that you have traveled for a conference?

    I am attending Scientific Sessions 2017 in November. In 2018, I am planning on attending the European Society of Hypertension and the International Society of Hypertension meetings.

    It’s a close call, but Melbourne, Australia to Washington D.C., USA, for the AHA Council on Hypertension in 2015 is the furthest I’ve traveled (16,373 km) to attend a conference!

  • How did you learn about ISH/NIN and its activities?

    I have been participating in and attending ISH NIN events since 2012. The ISH-NIN networking events are an excellent opportunity to meet and mingle with your peers and senior members of the research community. Based on the advice of ISH NIN member Francine Marques, I joined the ISH mentorship program as a mentee. Just recently, I joined the ISH NIN Networking and Recruitment Working Group.

  • What area(s) do you wish to specialize in the future?

    I am really interested in the fact that preeclampsia uncovers a predisposed risk of developing cardiovascular disease in later life. This is something that I would like to research in the future.

  • Who is your role model in Science? Why?

    My biggest role models in science are Professors Kate Denton, Jane Reckelhoff and Rhian Touyz. They are three excellent examples of Women in Hypertension who have stellar careers and make significant contributions to their fields of research, which is something that I aspire to.

  • What are your scientific goals? Advice for talented emerging scientists?

    My scientific goal is to improve cardiovascular health in men and women across their lifespan.

    My advice for talented emerging scientists is to find an area of research that you are passionate about, and good mentors.