Grateful for their commitment and love of research

Natalie Wilson
October 20, 2020
Mark Domondon and Ryan Schibalski, research technicians in Ilatovskaya lab, performing spectrofluorimetry of mitochondria isolated from the kidneys of rats with high blood pressure.
Mark Domondon and Ryan Schibalski, research technicians in Ilatovskaya lab, performing spectrofluorimetry of mitochondria isolated from the kidneys of rats with high blood pressure.

High blood pressure is the leading cause of kidney disease and kidney failure. The number of people living with hypertension is predicted to be 1.56 billion worldwide by the year 2025.

That’s why MUSC renal physiologist Daria Ilatovskaya, M.S., Ph.D., FAHA, has dedicated her research career to advancing our understanding of the mechanisms that underlie kidney disease and facilitating faster translation of the science knowledge into clinics.

Specifically, her lab is focused on studying salt-sensitive hypertension and polycystic kidney disease (PKD), and the dietary aspects of their development. Ilatovskaya wants to know how the salt we eat can affect these conditions, what damage too much or too little salt can cause, and what role hormones play in their progression.

“The Western diet that most of us consume has a very high salt content, so it is imperative to understand what consequences there are on kidney function when humans consume high amounts of salt,” said Ilatovskaya.  “And we found that mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell) have a very important role in this process.”

However, in order to study mitochondria, MUSC’s nephrology lab needed a microplate reader, a widely-used lab instrument that allows for many samples to be simultaneously tested.

Usah Lilavivat, M.D., and Pusadee Suchinda, M.D. 
Usah Lilavivat, M.D., and Pusadee Suchinda, M.D.

When longtime MUSC donors Usah Lilavivat, M.D., and his wife and practice partner, Pusadee Suchinda, M.D., learned of the division’s need, they decided to make a gift to the Division of Nephrology to purchase the microplate reader for use in the division’s labs.

Lilavivat spent four years in the lab during his fellowship at the University of Rochester, so he knows firsthand why it is so important to support lab activities.  “We know that research grants alone don’t cover the cost of equipment purchases. We hope this machine will lead to new discoveries, new treatments, and maybe one day help lead to a cure for kidney disease,” said Lilavivat. The couple is hopeful their donation will inspire others to consider a contribution as well.

“This plate readers allows us to work on isolated mitochondria and tissues and cell culture, and perform a variety of tests that can assess the functional capacity of mitochondria, whether they are becoming less or more efficient in certain conditions. It has high throughput, and it allows us to generate a lot of data, which so far has been very exciting and has confirmed our hypothesis,” said Ilatovaskaya.  “Additionally, in my case, it was very instrumental in obtaining extramural funding.” 

Ilatovskaya recently received a $2.6 million R01 grant from the NIH, and the availability of this reader was important to the generation of data needed for the grant proposal.  

Over the past 11 years, Lilavivat and Suchinda have provided vital philanthropic support to the Department of Medicine’s kidney disease research and diabetes initiatives. Their generosity has enabled MUSC’s programs to grow. The Department of Medicine is immeasurably grateful for their contributions and support.

About the Author

Natalie Wilson

Keywords: Medicine Matters eNewsletter, Nephrology, Research