US National Institutes of Health Scientist visits UKZN
National Institutes of Health (NIH) Principal Scientist in the United States, Professor Cheryl Winkler, delivered a stimulating presentation about the protein-coding gene, APOL1, and its association with kidney disease when she visited UKZN’s School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences’ Optics and Imaging Centre (OIC) recently.
In her research, Winkler discovered the association between a chromosome 22 region containing the genes, MYH9 and APOL1, in a human body with kidney disease. She found APOL 1 variants were predictors of chronic kidney disease and a marker for progression and they also provided protection against sleeping sickness, trypanosomiasis.
Her presentation covered a spectrum of phenotypes associated with APOL 1 risk alleles in the United States and African cohorts.
Winkler, who has a degree in immunogenetics from the University of Maryland, is a Senior Researcher in the NIH’s Basic Research Laboratory in the US and is Principal Investigator for several multicentre and international studies.
Recently, a UKZN masters student conducting novel research in the OIC, Mr Wenkosi Qulu, spent four months at Winkler’s laboratory investigating APOL 1 risk variants in African children. He received financial aid from the Fogarty Fund which is administered by CAPRISA’s Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim.
OIC Head, Professor Anita Naicker, said Qulu’s training at the NIH initiated collaboration between Winkler’s lab and the Centre.
A PHD student at the OIC, Mr Vinogrin Dorsamy, will examine APOL 1 risk alleles in HIV associated pre-eclamptic patients. He will be supervised by Professor Anita Naicker and Professor Jack Moodley from the Women’s Health and HIV Research Unit in collaboration with Winkler.
‘The presentation was quite stimulating and thought-provoking,’ said Dorsamy who felt it merged history with cutting-edge molecular genetic studies. He agreed with colleagues and fellow students who said it shed light into new knowledge.