Rupal Mehta, MD, Recipient of 2-Year, $120,000 Young Investigator Research Grant

July 1, 2015

Topic: Mineral Metabolites and Risk of Retinal Abnormalities

Dr. Rupal Mehta, clinical instructor at Northwestern University, and member of the Center for Translational Metabolism and Health at the Feinberg School of Medicine, is the 2015-2017 biennial recipient of the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois Young Investigator Research Grant. Her research aims to search for the link between kidney disease, phosphate levels and heart disease.

Inspired by her mentors Drs. Myles Wolf and Tamara Isakova, Dr. Mehta pursued a career as a physician-scientist and joined their research group at the Center for Translational Metabolism and Health at Northwestern University.

The initial research for this study showed two key findings: first, that elevated levels of phosphate are bad for blood vessels, and second, that FGF23 - a hormone that helps the kidney to control the blood levels of phosphate - is toxic to heart cells. This leaves individuals with chronic kidney disease at high risk for heart-related problems.

Mehta’s research will assess the association between high phosphate levels and small vessels in the kidneys. These small vessels in the kidneys are not easily accessible, though, so will be substituted with similar vessels in the eye that can be studied non-invasively. The research will evaluate if high blood levels of phosphate are associated with changes in the vessels, the development of worsening eye disease, and the changes in eye vessels over time in individuals with and without chronic kidney disease.

To determine the association, Mehta and her team will evaluate phosphate as a risk factor for retinal vascular disease by completing longitudinal eye exams and, then, will examine the effect that transplantation and correction of abnormal phosphate homeostasis has on retinal vascular disease. The results of the study hope to provide justification for future studies testing whether correction of high blood phosphate levels may improve vascular disease in patients with chronic kidney disease.

Mehta begins her two-year research study on July 1, 2015.

Outside of research studies, Mehta enjoys Chicago activities and time with family. After completing her residencies in Cleveland, Ohio, she was thrilled to return to Chicago. “I was excited to return to Chicago to complete my nephrology training and could not be happier with this decision,” Mehta says.  

Being back in Chicago, she can bring out her inner-child at her favorite museum, the Museum of Science and Industry, and eat her favorite deep-dish pizza from Gino’s East (although she loves Lou Malnati’s butter crust, too!).

When asked the most riveting question - her favorite guilty-pleasure TV show - she answered truthfully. “Should I be honest is the real question here!  House of Cards is probably my favorite television show currently that I binge watch on Netflix immediately after it is released—but my true guilty pleasure is probably the Real Housewives of Orange County,” Mehta stated. 

About the Research Grant for the Young Investigator

The NKF, its affiliates and divisions are leaders in research, funding over one third of all medical research for kidney disease in the United States.

The NKFI Research Grant program funds young investigators who have research projects that will increase the understanding of kidney, urologic and related diseases and transplantation as well as improve the clinical management and treatment or cure of these diseases. Our endowment is funded by individual gifts, the Tony Noel Memorial Research Fund, the Noel Foundation and a portion from past Gift of Life Gala events.

The National Kidney Foundation of Illinois is committed to funding the most promising kidney disease research in Illinois, granting more than $1.6 million in support since 1989.

About the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois
The National Kidney Foundation of Illinois improves the health and well-being of people at risk for and affected by kidney disease through prevention, education and empowerment.