UT researcher awarded $2.4M to study exosome regulation of kidney function and blood pressure

Zhongjie Sun, MD, PhD, Thomas A. Gerwin Chair of Excellence in Physiology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, and co-director of the UT Methodist Cardiovascular Institute, has been awarded $2.4 million from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases for a project that may lead to new therapeutic strategies to treat aging-associated kidney dysfunction and hypertension and related cardiovascular disorder.

Kidney dysfunction and hypertension are very common clinical problems in the elderly population. An important contributing factor is salt sensitivity, which increases with age. The mechanics at the core of age-related salt-sensitive hypertension are not fully known or understood, and consequently there is no effective treatment for these conditions. Dr. Sun’s project aims to fill this knowledge gap, focusing on the role of exosomes (small messenger molecules which help regulate cell functions) derived from renal stem cells.

His team will use several novel technical approaches in the project, such as stem cell exosome engineering, in vivo CRISPR/Cas9-based gene modifications, and in vivo cell-specific gene delivery. They will first focus on determining whether renal stem cell-derived exosomes play a role in regulating kidney function and blood pressure. Next, they will investigate whether downregulation of these exosomes contribute to aging-associated kidney dysfunction, salt sensitivity, and hypertension.

“This grant will allow us to study why aged people develop salt-sensitive hypertension,” Dr. Sun said. “Our studies may help discover a new mechanistic and therapeutic target of aging-associated kidney disease and hypertension.”

SourceUniversity of Tennessee

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