Published September 13, 2019
Researcher: Robin Maser, Ph.D. | University of Kansas Medical Center
PKD Foundation (PKDF): How did you first get involved in PKD research?
Robin: During my postdoctoral training, which involved the study of small nuclear RNAs, my adviser started a second research program in the lab to investigate the molecular basis of PKD. When the funding for my postdoctoral project ran out, I joined the rest of the lab working on PKD, and as they say, “the rest is history.” I’ve worked on various aspects of PKD ever since my training, and it is the focus of my lab’s research.
PKDF: What are you working on currently?
Robin: My research lab is currently trying to understand how polycystin-1 (the protein product of the PKD1 gene) functions as a G protein-coupled receptor, and, how polycystin-1’s signaling via heterotrimeric G proteins is regulated.
PKDF: What would you like the patient community to know about your research?
Robin: Although PKD researchers had been aware of polycystin-1’s potential function as a G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) for almost 20 years, it wasn’t until last year after new research was published that we finally understood the importance of this particular function in the prevention of renal cyst formation. We are making use of the similarities between polycystin-1 and a special group of G protein-coupled receptors called the Adhesion GPCRs to guide our experiments in deciphering this function of polycystin-1. Thus far, we have obtained encouraging results that have given us insight into the mechanism regulating polycystin-1’s GPCR function and suggest that this mechanism may provide a new therapeutic target for ‘resuscitating’ polycystin-1 function as a treatment in PKD.
PKDF: Do you have a personal connection to PKD?
Robin: Yes, I do. My father, and other family members on his side, had ADPKD. Unfortunately, he died at an early age (49 years old) from cardiovascular conditions associated with PKD, before any loss of kidney function. I was only 14 at the time of his death, and it wasn’t until I was in graduate school that I learned about this common and devastating genetic disease.
PKDF: What are some of your personal interests outside of research?
Robin: Well, research is pretty much all-encompassing for me, but I do enjoy reading (I’m currently in a mystery/detective novel phase), spending time with my dogs, playing sports (kayaking and pickleball), and wood-working (currently framing out a room in my basement).
PKDF: Anything else you’d like to share?
Robin: I’d like the members of the PKD Foundation to know that we PKD researchers appreciate the work that you do to help support and fund the research into this disease. If given the opportunity, I would encourage PKD patients, their family members and friends to visit their ‘local’ PKD research labs and centers and meet/get to know the scientists. It really helps for us to put a face on what we are trying to do.
PKD Foundation is the largest private funder of PKD research in the U.S. Since 1982, we’ve invested close to $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 researcher 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.