research initiatives with a specific focus on health disparities. It is essential, she says, that people of every ethnic and racial background not only receive the health care they need, but also have the opportunity to participate in research to help identify effective prevention strategies and treatments. We are not all the same. African Americans are three to four times more likely than Caucasians to suffer from kidney disease. Hispanics, Latinos, and Native Americans are also disproportionately affected. Since Philadelphia is home to a rich mix of populations, kidney disease is reflected in higher proportion here than in many other areas. “The increased burden of kidney disease among certain groups is probably caused by a combination of genetic susceptibility and environmental exposures,” Gadegbeku says. She and her colleagues are actively exploring a recently discovered genetic mutation common in African Americans that is associated with kidney disease. Historically, certain variations in this gene helped protect people from Sleeping Sickness, a disease endemic to certain parts of Africa. Understanding this genetic variation may lead to prevention and treatment strategies. Exploring the high rates of cardiovascular disease in patients with kidney disease remains an important research focus for Gadegbeku. One of her long-time research partners is cardiologist Martin G. Keane, MD, FACC, FAHA, FASE, Medical Crystal Gadegbeku, MD Director of Temple’s Echocardiography Laboratory. Through their collaboration in the largest “What I find special about epidemiological study of chronic working at Temple is the closekidney disease in the U.S., Keane knit relationships among physiand Gadegbeku have confirmed “Heart disease is an cians and staff with far-ranging that a protein involved in phosastonishing 20 to 30 times expertise. We work harmoniously phate metabolism, fibroblast more common in patients with to provide a spectrum of experigrowth factor 23 (FGF23), is enced judgment, which translates an important mediator of heart chronic kidney disease than to outstanding patient care,” she disease in patients with chronic in the general population,” notes. “Temple’s unique environkidney disease. ment is ideal for kidney-disease “FGF23 is associated with leftGadegbeku says. patients because their cases are ventricular hypertrophy in kidney often complex, involving multiple disease patients,” says Keane. medical complications.” Hypertrophy involves a thickening of the heart wall. “Through echocardiography, we can see how kidney disease is causing heart problems,” he says. RESEARCH INROADS The relationship between kidney disease and heart disease hile on faculty at the University of is complex. Inflammation, metabolic abnormalities, and other Michigan, Gadegbeku co-led the developbiological factors are at play. When the kidneys are affected by ment of a new kidney research core at disease, systems throughout the body begin to go awry. “Kidney the George M. O’Brien Kidney Center, disease doesn’t get the ‘press’ that heart disease and cancer do. an interdisciplinary cooperative research But it should,” Gadegbeku says. “It is a global epidemic. In the center funded by the National Institutes of United States, it is the ninth-leading cause of death.” Health. She continues to hold a leadership Today, with a full roster of patients and nearly $13 million in role there, and has established Temple as one of the research research funding, Gadegbeku says simply, “We are trying to save sites in its consortium, which studies data from more than 1,000 lives. And doing so has meant a shift in focus from concentrating patients with kidney disease. Gadegbeku says the scientific solely on kidney function, to now also looking at heart disease.” information drawn from Temple’s diverse patient popula“By working together, we are able to give many patients a new tion provides an unsurpassed resource for bench-to-bedside lease on life,” Di Carlo adds. research activities. It’s the full package: cutting-edge clinical care, education for When Gadegbeku came to Temple in 2011, part of what new generations of professionals — and research aimed at getting drew her was the chance to take her career to the next level as a the kidney and heart to give up some of those secrets they keep. physician-scientist, educator, and public health care advocate. As Assistant Director of the Temple Clinical Research Institute, Kara Rogers is a science writer based in Madison, WI. To make an appointment with Gadegbeku is committed to expanding clinical and translational a Temple specialist, call 1-800-TEMPLEMED.
FALL 2015 | TEMPLE HEALTH MAGAZINE |
Temple Health - Temple Health Magazine - Fall 2015