The Division of Nephrology’s 2017 Translational Innovation Grant has been awarded to Assistant Professor of Medicine Tarek Alhamad, MD, and Instructor of Medicine Hani Suleiman, MD, PhD, in the sum of $50,000. The project is titled Novel Diagnostic Imaging Techniques for Transplant Glomerulopathy.
The Translational Innovation Grant program, now in its third year, brings together a clinician and basic scientist from within the Division of Nephrology to jointly pursue a collaborative project with translational potential.
In 2017, a record 254 kidney transplant surgeries were performed here at Washington University/Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Approximately 20% of kidney allografts by 5 years post transplantation are affected by transplant glomerulopathy (TG), the clinical features of which are proteinuria and worsening kidney function. Finding novel diagnostic approaches that will identify patients prone to develop TG is one crucial step towards improving allograft survival.
Diagnosis of TG is based on ultrastructural changes in the glomerular basement membrane (GBM) and indicators of endothelial injury. High-resolution visualization using electron microscopy (EM) is needed to determine the extent of TG. The winning project will use “super-resolution imaging,” a new technique that allows a traditional light microscope to examine the GBM and glomerular endothelial cells without the need of EM. Super-resolution imaging can detect molecular changes of cell on a nanoscale.
“This study aims to shed light on the pathological changes that occur within the GBM as part of the transplant glomerulopathy,” says Dr. Alhamad. “We will use super-resolution imaging techniques to search for markers that could serve as identifiers for etiology behind the transplant glomerulopathy.” This eventually will provide a sensitive, less expensive and more readily available method than EM for diagnosing TG.
“In this study, says Dr. Suleiman, we will also test whether we can use transplant glomerulopathy biopsies that were collected in conventional ways to assay for the novel markers using various super-resolution imaging techniques.”
In 2017, Dr. Alhamad, a transplant nephrologist, was elected to serve a two-year term as a Committee Member-at-Large on the Kidney Pancreas Community of Practice Executive Committee, which advises the American Society of Transplantation Board of Directors on its goal of promoting research, education, advocacy, and kidney and pancreas organ donation.
In 2014, Dr. Suleiman received a Young Investigator Award from NephCure Kidney International organization to study kidney podocyte cells using these used these cutting-edge techniques. He was recently awarded an AWRP Summer 2016 Scientist Development Grant from the American Heart Association and a Nephrotic Syndrome Study Network Career Development Fellowship. Suleiman’s work was recently featured in an interview by NephCure Kidney International.