A first-year student at the Wayne State University School of Medicine has been selected to receive a research grant from the American Society of Nephrology.
Karan Singh, 21, will use the $8,000 ASN Student Scholar Grant to study the link between maternal diet during pregnancy and its relation to the development of complications in kidney donors.
While new surgical techniques and drugs have made kidney donation more common, the long-term post-operative consequences for donors have not been thoroughly studied, Mr. Singh explained. Because donating a kidney is stressful, it is possible donors may develop hypertension, which can lead to renal failure, and thus possibly require a transplant for donors.
“We need accurate and efficient methods to screen potential donors for predictable outcomes so as to minimize subsequent health issues to them,” he said.
Mr. Singh explained that there is a strong link between the quality of maternal nutrition during pregnancy and the health of offspring. Several studies using rat models demonstrated that a low-protein diet during pregnancy results in offspring with low birth weight and hypertension. Using that model, Mr. Singh plans to test a hypothesis that the offspring of female rats on a low-protein diet during pregnancy will develop hypertension after they undergo the surgical removal of one kidney (simulating kidney donation).
Mr. Singh wrote his grant proposal based on his earlier work as an undergraduate studying with Noreen F. Rossi, M.D., and Robert Augustyniak, Ph.D., the effect of maternal nutrition on kidney function and blood pressure in offspring. Dr. Rossi is a professor of Internal Medicine in the Department of Physiology and director of the Nephrology Program. Dr. Augustyniak is an assistant professor of Research in the Departments of Medicine and Physiology.
“Karan has already demonstrated a keen investigative mind. He’s creative and inquisitive. He is also precise and organized. These are all very important qualities in a future clinician scientist,” Dr. Rossi said. “Even at this very early stage of medical training, Karan has shown himself to have a keen awareness of disease processes and the many questions that remain to be answered to help people with kidney disease. Besides all this, he is a delight to have in the lab, where he has shown himself able to function so well as a member of the team. This is a characteristic that is important not only in the research setting but more and more in the clinical setting as well.”
Born in Bombay, India, Mr. Karan has lived in ShelbyTownship since the age of 12. He completed his undergraduate work at Wayne State University, with a bachelor’s degree in Honors Biology. He first became interested in a career in medicine through his own experiences as a patient and through job-shadowing opportunities.
“Ever since I realized that suffering, especially in regards to health, is universal, it was clear to me that medicine was my path,” he said.
“Before I was first exposed to clinical nephrology, the only thing I really knew about the kidneys was that they existed somewhere in the body and somehow filtered blood,” Mr. Singh added. “High school and even undergraduate courses were oriented toward cardiology and neurology. When I learned more about the kidneys by talking to nephrologists, attending conferences and by researching information, I was simply amazed at the vital role they play. In fact, in terms of importance of organs in the body, I would rank the kidneys just below the brain and the heart. I simply kept exploring and simply kept becoming more and more passionate about nephrology. Along the way, through my shadowing experiences, I was able to witness the high incidence of renal disease in the Detroit area and I was motivated to do my best to be a part of the solution.”
The high incidence of kidney failure in the community, as well as the “excellent experience” he had at WSU as an undergraduate, convinced Mr. Singh to purse his medical education at the School of Medicine.
“Mr. Singh is just one example of the caliber of student attracted to the School of Medicine,” said Robert M. Mentzer Jr., M.D., dean of the School of Medicine and senior advisor to the president on Medical Affairs. “He is also enhancing the reputation our physicians-in-training have developed as people who truly care about the community in which they live and serve.”
Dr. Rossi and Dr. Augustyniak, said Mr. Singh, have played major roles in his development.
“Ever since my first day in the lab, they always been there to help me and guide me with everything from grant proposals to teaching me surgical techniques,” he said. “We simply have good people at our lab. I am always learning something new, and it has been a pleasure to work with everyone. That combination of fun and learning keeps me motivated to do my best.”
In addition to furthering the research, the award also provides Mr. Singh a travel stipend and the chance to present his findings at the national meeting of the American Society of Nephrology next year in San Diego, Calif., where he will meet other clinician scientists and trainees.
That’s a very important function in a budding career, Dr. Rossi noted. “I certainly hope Karan will become an academic nephrologist.”