Musah Wins Keystone Symposia Early Career Investigator Travel Award
New faculty member Samira Musah was recognized for her research in stem cell engineering and human kidney disease
Samira Musah, an assistant professor in Duke University’s Department of Biomedical Engineering and the Department of Medicine’s Division of Nephrology, received the Early Investigator Travel Award from the Keystone Symposia on Molecular and Cellular Biology.
Intended to substantially further a current research project or assist in problem-solving around a particular experimental topic, the award provides support to early-career investigators at the assistant professor level, to attend the Keystone Symposia meetings and present new research. For the 2019 award, Musah will travel to Stockholm, Sweden to attend the symposium on “Proteomics and Its Application to Translational and Precision Medicine,” where she’ll present on “Patient-Derived Stem Cell Models for Mechanistic Studies of Human Kidney Disease.”
Musah’s research is centered around 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 to keep our bodies healthy. 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, the illness isn’t typically diagnosed until kidney function is severely impaired. This often means that patients must go on dialysis, which only delays the necessity of a kidney transplant.
At the symposium, Musah will discuss how her lab uses induced pluripotent stem cells and Organ Chip (organs-on-chips) technology to develop key kidney cells, known as podocytes, providing an opportunity to engineer a functional human kidney model.
“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” says Musah. According to Musah, this work could help researchers begin to identify biomarkers for kidney disease and develop novel therapeutics for the illness.