Published November 5, 2019
PKD Foundation (PKDF): How did you first get involved in PKD research?
Daria: As a graduate student, I worked on a project about the regulation of the ways that our kidneys process salt we consume. There is a certain protein — ENaC, or “epithelial sodium channel” — that has been shown to play a role in absorbing the salt, which is very important for our blood pressure maintenance. A single, tiny mutation in this protein can lead to too much or too little salt being taken back by our body, resulting in hypertension or hypotension (high or low blood pressure). PKD is often associated with hypertension, and we decided to check if ENaC is somehow dysregulated and thus involved in the progression of this disease. We found exciting evidence to support our hypothesis that targeting ENaC could be one of the ways to slow down PKD.
PKDF: What are you working on currently?
Daria: My primary research focus is still hypertension and PKD, and the dietary aspects of their development. I am interested to know how the salt we eat can affect these diseases, what damage too much or too little salt can cause, and what the role of hormones is in their progression.
PKDF: What would you like the patient community to know about your research?
Daria: Basic science is slow. . . . But you should know that there are thousands of brilliant researchers working day and night to bring an actual cure to the world. We do the most rigorous and carefully planned research, making sure that the outcomes of our experiments can be used to create new treatments ASAP! Also — animal research is crucial, and it does save lives.
PKDF: What excites you most about this research?
Daria: I get to do the work that will provide basis for future therapies — what can be more exciting? I guess what is thrilling is that you never know where your next experiment takes you. Predictions you make about certain effects do not always work. . . However, wrong assumptions and experiments that did not turn out the way you expected often result in actual breakthroughs, and I (in a weird way?) love it when my hypotheses get turned upside down by data 🙂
PKDF: What are some of your personal interests outside of research?
Daria: I am a workaholic and I love traveling. When I am not at work or traveling, I am trying to get back piano skills that I have not used for the last 17 years (it is painful). I am also passionate about scientific outreach, advocacy, and educating lawmakers about research.
PKDF: Anything else you’d like to share?
Daria: When I participated in the PKD Connect conference last summer, I was very impressed by how friendly and curious about science the PKD community is. I had never seen anything like before — talking to all these wonderful people in Kansas City was very inspiring, and it helps me keep doing what I can to advance the future of PKD research!
PKD Foundation is the largest private funder of PKD research in the U.S. Since 1982, we’ve invested over $50 million in more than 700 research, clinical and scientific grants, fellowships and scientific meetings. Each year, the Foundation identifies and supports the work of scientists and researchers from around the world who look for ways to treat and eventually cure PKD.
Our vision is to end PKD. Donations help fund necessary research that leads to more effective treatments and ultimately a cure for PKD.