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September 2, 2014
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

Kidney disease research leads to fellowship for Upstate student

SYRACUSE, N.Y.— Jing Bi Karchin’s persistence has paid off.

Karchin, a Ph.D. student in Cell & Developmental Biology at Upstate Medical University, has been awarded a two-year fellowship from the American Heart Association (AHA) for her research into the role of a protein in kidney disease and in blood vessels’ permeability.

The AHA sent Karchin’s grant application back to her last year with some questions about her proposal’s relevance to heart disease. She did further experiments and was able to show that the proteins she is investigating were involved not only in kidney disease but also in regulating blood vessel integrity. She resubmitted the grant, which was approved.

The award is worth $23,000 per year, and will fund Karchin’s work in the lab of her principal investigator, assistant professor Mira Krendel, Ph.D.

“She can always make things work,” Krendel said of Karchin, who will soon begin her fourth year in the lab. “It really was her hard work and persistence that allowed her to succeed in getting this funding.”

Karchin’s research has clinical relevance, since the pediatric patients affected by the disease she’s investigating — Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) – eventually undergo dialysis.

The common feature of FSGS is abnormal protein excretion in the urine caused by a leaky filtration barrier in the kidney.

Karchin’s research looks at how a protein (myosin 1e) regulates the stability of cell-cell junctions in kidney cells. Mutations in the myosin 1e gene are associated with FSGS and kidney failure. A similar pathway involving myosin activity may also regulate blood vessel permeability.

A better understanding of how reduced myosin 1e activity and gene mutations lead to junctional instability will help identify novel genetic risk factors for kidney and heart disease.

Karchin is confident in her project’s eventual success.

Karchin was born in China and came to the United States in 2006. She attended SUNY Potsdam, graduating in three years, then worked for about a year in New York City as a medical assistant in a clinic.

In 2010 she enrolled at Upstate, and last year was first author of an article published in the American Journal of Physiology.

With financial help from the College of Graduate Studies and the Department of Cell & Developmental Biology, Karchin has traveled to conferences in New Orleans (where she gave an oral presentation) and San Francisco. She is headed to Philadelphia for another conference this year with Krendel.

Caption: Jing Bi Karchin, a doctoral student in Cell & Developmental Biology at Upstate, has received a two-year fellowship from the American Heart Association for her research into a protein’s role in kidney disease and its potential link to cardiovascular disease.

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