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USC kidney researcher makes his mark as a young investigator

An annual award recognizes Janos Peti-Peterdi’s achievements in physiology

Janos Peti-Peterdi embarked early on the path to becoming a kidney researcher.

“My destiny was already determined before I was born,” said Peti-Peterdi, principal investigator with USC Stem Cell and professor at the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute and in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics. “When I was born, my mother was already very ill, suffering from kidney disease. So the only way to save her was, of course, to make medicine more perfect.”

With this goal in mind, Peti-Peterdi earned his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees at Semmelweis University and assisted in a kidney transplant clinic in Budapest, near his hometown in Hungary. In this same clinic, his mother received her own transplant nearly 20 years ago to treat her chronic kidney disease originating from a streptococcal infection.

Alabama’s challenges

In 1997, Peti-Peterdi moved to the United States, where he completed a postdoctoral fellowship and eventually became an assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. At UAB, Peti-Peterdi joined an active community of nearly 40 Hungarian scholars. He played soccer and fell in love with a fellow Hungarian, who became his wife and the mother of his three children.

Despite this strong Hungarian presence, Alabama was challenging for him.

“I’ll never forget the first time I went to a burger place,” he said. “I wanted to order a burger and French fries, and I got a cup of ice cream. So something must have been very terrible with my English. But I’ve kept my Hung-lish accent.”

Although he didn’t pick up a Southern drawl, he did pick up research interests that continue to this day. And those interests, in part, have led to his selection as the 2015 recipient of the ASN-AHA Young Investigator Award. Co-sponsored by the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) and the council on the Kidney of the American Heart Association (AHA), the annual award recognizes a kidney researcher age 45 or younger with an outstanding record of achievement and creativity.

High-resolution imaging

In recognition of Peti-Peterdi’s growing body of research, he’ll accept a plaque and a $5,000 grant. He’ll also deliver a 35-minute address during ASN Kidney Week’s plenary session on Nov. 8 in San Diego.

We in the USC kidney research community are very fortunate to have a scientist of his caliber and collegiality.

Andrew McMahon

His laboratory uses a high-resolution imaging approach, called multiphoton fluorescence microscopy, to observe how the living kidney controls blood pressure and body fluid balance under normal and disease conditions.

He recently made an advance in quantitatively visualizing the function of the living kidney’s filter, called the glomerulus, at the cellular and molecular level. He has now tracked individual cells of the glomerulus, shedding light on the mechanisms of both injury and regeneration.

“We in the USC kidney research community are very fortunate to have a scientist of his caliber and collegiality,” said fellow kidney researcher Andrew McMahon, chair of the executive committee of USC Stem Cell.

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USC kidney researcher makes his mark as a young investigator

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