Somanathapura K. NaveenKumar, PhD

Subject: Lupus

Study Title: Gasdermin D in APS Thromboinflammation

My name is pronounced: Soma-naa-thaa-poora Na-veen-ku-maar


My early education was not always an easy ride, and I experienced some setbacks. I ultimately decided to pursue a career in the field of rheumatology research after my father was diagnosed with life-threatening heart and kidney problems. At that point in my life, I felt that gaining deep knowledge of human physiology, as well as pathological aspects of human diseases, would be critical to ultimately make a difference in disease management. I completed my graduate and post-graduate work in biochemistry from the University of Mysore, which included successfully qualifying for all popular competitive exams (CSIR-NET, GATE and KSET). My doctoral research focused on the effects of cell-free hemoglobin metabolites on platelet and neutrophil function, including a dissection of the relevant underlying molecular mechanisms. During three years of postdoctoral research at the Indian Institute of Science, I focused on the cytoprotective properties of synthetic enzyme mimetics. During my years as a doctoral and postdoctoral fellow, I have had the opportunity to mentor many undergraduate and postgraduate students as they pursued various research programs. Also, mentoring junior scientists has always been important to me as I am very lucky to have such great mentors in my own life. I surely would have been lost along the way if they were not guiding me on the right path. I am now ready to take my career development to the next level in a research group that provides weekly access to patient specimens, and which has a tremendous role model in Dr. Knight, as well as a dynamic and energetic team of peer mentors whom I have already leaned on as I chart my path to research independence. I realize the work I have proposed here is ambitious, but I am confident that my diligent preparation has positioned me for the successful completion of present and many future projects focused on rheumatic diseases.

Research Summary:

Antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) is an autoimmune disease, meaning that a person’s immune system attacks their own body. Roughly 1 in 2000 Americans have APS, including many individuals with lupus. Patients with APS are at very high risk for blood clots that develop in arteries and veins. These blood clots can sometimes be life-threatening. The lifelong use of blood thinners is the only known way to reduce the risk of blood clots. Unfortunately, blood thinners are not always effective and also come with significant risks such as bleeding. Patients continue to request therapies that are easier to take and that treat APS at its source. Researchers have recently discovered that sticky spider web-like structures called NETs are released from white blood cells in APS. While we know that these NETs contribute to blood clotting, we do not yet know why they are released and how to stop them. This project will examine a protein called gasdermin D that forms pores (holes) in the membrane that surrounds the cell. We believe that these pores allow NETs and other potentially harmful chemicals to be released into the blood where they help form clots. The goal of this project is to identify new strategies for preventing pore formation and NET release. The long-term goal is to reduce the devastating effects of APS on patients.

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