Musah Named Among Inspiring Black Scientists in America

February 14, 2020

Biomedical engineer Samira Musah was recognized for her innovative research in stem cell engineering and human kidney disease

Samira Musah

Samira Musah

Samira Musah, an assistant professor in Duke University’s Department of Biomedical Engineering and the Department of Medicine’s Division of Nephrology, was recently recognized by Cell Press on their list, “100 Inspiring Black Scientists in America.” 

Highlighting 75 well-established professors and 25 researchers deemed “rising stars,” the list, published on the Cell Press blog Cross Talk, highlights black scientists who make significant contributions to scientific fields, including biomedical engineering, chemistry and physics, but may be unknown to the masses. The list also serves as a resource to encourage the existing and forthcoming generation of scientists.

"It is an honor to be recognized among these stellar and highly accomplished scientists,” said Musah, who joined the Duke faculty this year as a MEDx Investigator.  “As an independent investigator and a mentor, this reminds me of the wonderful mentors and sponsors that I have had along the way –– I thank them for challenging me to excel, and perhaps more importantly, for giving me the resources and flexibility to do so.”

“I hope that this list also inspires every child or young professional out there to follow their passion."

Musah’s research involves the use of patient-derived stem cells to understand the mechanisms of human kidney disease, a disorder that affects more than 10 percent of the world’s population. Healthy kidneys filter blood, removing waste and extra fluid as urine, but when kidney function breaks down, dangerous levels of fluid and waste can build up in the body, damaging the heart, brain and immune system. Because many patients don’t exhibit early symptoms of kidney disease, diagnosis typically doesn’t occur until kidney function is severely impaired. This often requires patients to go on dialysis, which usually only delays the need for a kidney transplant.

“By reprogramming a patient’s own cells to stem cells, and then differentiating them to specific cell types such as podocytes and proximal tubule epithelial cells, we can understand like never before how human tissues develop and function in health and disease,” said Musah. According to Musah, this work could help researchers begin to identify biomarkers for kidney disease and develop novel therapeutics for the illness.