PKD Connection Blog


Meet our Fellows: Ekaterina Marilovtseva, Ph.D.

Dr. Ekaterina Marilovtseva is one of the four outstanding researchers selected for our 2017 PKD Foundation Fellowship Awards. She earned her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in biochemistry at Siberian Federal University (Russia), and a Ph.D. in molecular genetics at Institute of Chemical Biology and Fundamental Medicine, Russian Academy of Sciences. She is a post-doctoral fellow in the University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC). Her research is under the mentorship of Xiaogang Li, Ph.D., an internationally known PKD researcher in renal inflammation and epigenetics, and director of the Epigenetics Core Center at KUMC.

For as long as I can remember I wanted to become a biologist. I have always known that this is what I was born for. Since my grandfather and mother are both biologists, I have always been surrounded by books that are connected to biology. It should come as no surprise that by the age of four I had already learned the architecture of human organisms and the structure and roles of cellular organelles. I still find the mystery of life the most thrilling thing in the universe!

My particular interest in nephrology was triggered by a tragic event that happened in my family: my uncle, at the age of forty-three, died of kidney failure. At that moment, as a six-year-old girl, I decided to do all I can to extend the lives of people who suffer from kidney diseases.

Throughout the next two decades I went directly to my goal, studying biochemistry and molecular genetics and reading as much as I could about etiology and pathogenesis of acquired and inherited kidneys diseases. Eventually, my main interest focused on autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD). I decided to devote all my effort to understanding the molecular mechanisms of the disease and discover new treatments.

To achieve my career goal, I joined the Jared Grantham Kidney Institute, one of the best kidney institutes in the world, at the University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC). My mentor, Dr. Xiaogang Li, a Director of the Epigenetic Core at KUMC, is a world class scientist. He is always there to discuss new ideas, give a good advice and cheer me up. An incredibly smart and helpful person, he successfully navigates my research. Together, we make an effective research team, ready to face any challenge.

It is well known that epigenetics, which studies regulation of realization of genetic information, is one of the most promising fields of modern biomedicine. My project is to examine the role of an epigenetic modifier, Smyd2, in cystic renal epithelial cells’ division and death – the processes deregulated in ADPKD.

Our study has already showed that Smyd2 is associated with inflammation and is upregulated in Pkd1 mutant renal epithelial cells. We also found that inhibiting Smyd2 delays renal cyst growth and preserves renal function in Pkd1 mutant mice. Moreover, we are now exploring the role of Smyd2 in growth and function of cilia, an organelle crucial for normal physiology of kidney.

Still, there is much to learn about the role of Smyd2 in particular and epigenetic bases of ADPKD pathogenesis in general. And we are eager to investigate them!

In conclusion, I want to say that my greatest dream is to bring benefits to humanity, to help people as much as I can. Earning the PKD Foundation’s fellowship grant is a great honor and an excellent chance for me to make one more step toward this dream. I am very grateful to the Foundation for this wonderful opportunity to continue my research, which I believe will be useful not only for science, but – what is much more important – for the patients!

Thank you!

Our Fellowships and the work of outstanding PKD researchers wouldn’t be possible without the support of the PKD community. To help fund critical research that will bring treatments to patients faster, please consider becoming a monthly giver to the PKD Foundation today.


  1. Cathy Perkins says:

    Congrats to Dr Ekaterina Marilovtseva.
    What an exciting story.

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