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UTHSC Professor Adebiyi Receives $3 Million for Neonatal Kidney Research, His Third NIH Award This Year


In the transition from fetal to neonatal life, the kidneys undergo delicate and intricate changes in functionality as they assume the primary responsibility for keeping the blood clean and chemically balanced. Understanding these complex physiological changes is critical, as stressors before, during, and after delivery put newborns at risk of kidney injury and maladaptation. The research in the lab of Adebowale Adebiyi, PhD, professor of Physiology in the College of Medicine at UTHSC, investigates newborn kidney functions and their alterations in acute and long-term disease. In continued support of these research initiatives, Dr. Adebiyi was recently awarded a $3 million grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. The grant will support a five-year project entitled “Urotensin II and renal insufficiency in growth-restricted infants.”

Dr. Adebowale Adebiyi

Over eight percent of all newborns in the United States suffer from low birth weight. Low birth weight due to premature birth or being small for gestational age is associated with a high incidence of kidney injury. Low birthweight babies are also at high risk of developing hypertension, diabetes, coronary heart disease, and chronic kidney disease in later life. However, the cellular mechanisms that underlie progressive kidney insufficiency in growth-restricted infants are unresolved. Dr. Adebiyi’s work has linked an increase in markers of kidney injury and inflammation to an early onset of oxidative stressors in growth-restricted newborns. Pilot data from Dr. Adebiyi’s laboratory has also implicated increased production and activity of urotensin II, a kidney-derived vasoactive peptide in stressors that causes acute kidney injury in growth-restricted newborns.

The goal of this project is to tease out the cellular and functional mechanisms and consequences of increased urotensin II activity in infants with kidney injury. We will investigate whether components of the urotensin II system are novel therapeutic targets to reduce the burden of infant and adult kidney and cardiovascular morbidity and mortality,” Dr. Adebiyi said. “I am very thrilled about the continued support of our research by the NIH, as these awards will not only enable us to establish an important line of scientific inquiry, but these intriguing projects may provide robust premises for exploring the translation of our research findings from the laboratory bench into practical use at the patient’s bedside.” This is the third award from the National Institutes of Health Dr. Adebiyi’s lab has received in 2020.