Fellowship Grant

Eryn Dixon, PhD, Awarded Ruth L. Kirschstein NRSA F32 Grant

Eryn Dixon awarded NIH NRSA postdoctoral fellowship grant. Research may identify a new sex-specific therapeutic target for kidney injury.

Eryn Dixon, PhD, is the recipient of a two-year Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Individual Postdoctoral Fellowship (Parent F32), which is awarded to support the research training of promising postdoctoral scholars to become productive, independent investigators.  The title of her proposal was “The Role of Nonmuscle Myosin IIA in Sex-dependent Failed Repair Mechanisms in Acute Kidney Injury.”

Dixon, a postdoctoral fellow in the Humphreys Laboratory, is developing a transcriptional atlas for sex differences in the transition from acute kidney injury (AKI) to chronic kidney disease (CKD).  The research has the potential to identify a new sex-specific therapeutic target.

Her proposal is based on epidemiological data indicating that the female sex is a protective factor in the AKI progression to CKD.  

“Leveraging the comparison of sex-specific mechanisms in ischemic injury has incredible potential for the identification of novel, effective therapeutic targets,” says Dixon.  “Therefore, I will employ single nuclei RNA and ATAC-Sequencing, as well as spatial transcriptomics to generate a multimodal atlas of the injury time course in females undergoing bilateral ischemia reperfusion injury (Bi-IRI).”

The study will examine genes that are differentially expressed in healthy versus injured cell states.  In particular, the gene Myh9, the expression of which is upregulated specifically in injured and failed repair cell clusters, and is found in low levels in healthy and repairing proximal tubule cells.  The gene encodes for nonmuscle myosin IIA (NMIIA), which plays an important role in cell shape, adhesion, migration, and cytokinesis.  

“I hypothesize that sexually dimorphic expression of Myh9 in the kidney and sex-specific mechanisms of NMIIA activation contribute to the renoprotection of female sex,” says Dixon.

Results of the study will be entered into the ReBuilding a Kidney (RBK) Data Repository, an NIDDK-funded consortium of research projects working to optimize isolation, expansion & differentiation of kidney cells for engineering replacement kidneys.  All data and tools in the repository are searchable and accessible via web-based interfaces, REST APIs, and program libraries.

In addition to her bench work, Dixon is passionate about helping fellow scientists communicate their own research through scientific writing and editing.  She assists in the evaluation and review of manuscripts as a member of the American Journal of Physiology-Renal Physiology Early Career Reviewer Program.  In addition, for the past year she has been part of the editorial team at InPrint, a trainee-run resource that provides free editing and design services for scientific manuscripts, abstracts, grants, and posters submitted by members of the WashU community.  Read more about her interest in science communication here.

On Twitter, follow Dr. Eryn Dixon @EzrinRadixin, @HumphreysLab, and @WUNephrology, and learn more about RBK @ReBuildaKidney.