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Collaborative Success Stories: Programmed to Self-Destruct


While working to improve kidney function in the elderly, University of Missouri researchers identified how insufficient levels of a key protein causes kidney cells to self-destruct.

As advances in medicine allow people to live longer, they face new health challenges. Aging organs such as the kidneys become more susceptible to injury and lose their ability to self-repair. In some cases, healthy kidney cells begin to die for unknown reasons, leading to kidney failure.

Funded by the National Institute of Aging of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Alan Parrish led a team of researchers in MU’s medical pharmacology and physiology department to examine the problem. They discovered a specific cellular protein is key to keeping cells alive. Insufficient levels of the protein set off a self-destruct sequence that threatens the entire organ.

By identifying the protein, the researchers are hopeful that they can find a way to interrupt the sequence and keep cells alive—ultimately boosting the health and function of the kidney and improving length and quality of life for the elderly.

Dr. Alan Parrish is associate professor in the Department of Medical Pharmacology and Physiology at MU’s School of Medicine.

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Related Initiative(s):
One Health/One Medicine