Oxalosis & Hyperoxaluria Foundation

Stepping stones to a cure.

OHF Research: University of Alabama at Birmingham!

By Sonia Fargue, MD, PhD

I am happy to introduce you to my lab!

We are based across the Atlantic, in the American southern state of “Sweet Home” Alabama. UAB, University of Alabama at Birmingham, is a big university, with a focus on medical research and large hospital facilities.

Our lab is hosted by the Department of Urology, of which Dean Assimos, MD, is the Chair. Ross Holmes, PhD and John Knight, PhD, head our team of 3 research assistants (Jennifer Williams, Alex Dowell, Nicole Holderman), a research technician (Song Lian Zhou), a work study student (Michelle Bui), one PhD graduate student (Brianna Buchalski), and 2 junior faculty members (instructors: Tanecia Mitchell, PhD and myself). We also have a dietician Masters student (May Pendergrass) and host Urology residents during their research experience.

For over 20 years, our lab’s research has centered on oxalate kidney stone disease and Primary Hyperoxaluria. Our recent work with Alnylam Pharmaceuticals is suggesting that the liver protein glycolate oxidase may prove to be an effective therapeutical target to reduce oxalate production in PH1. Another major research focus in PH is investigating whether the protein hydroxyproline dehydrogenase is a suitable target to reduce oxalate production in all forms of PH.

Our expertise is analytical chemistry and the instrument room is where we all converge at one time or another to measure oxalate and other related molecules. We use instruments with big names like ion chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry (IC/MS), and High-Pressure Liquid Chromatography (HPLC). These methods can be a bit temperamental and we have to appease them sometimes. Before we end up analyzing our samples on the instruments, we each have different starting points: cell models, animal models or patient studies. Our main collaborators outside UAB are Todd Lowther, PhD, at Wake Forest University and the Hyperoxaluria Center at the Mayo Clinic, with which we are currently completing a clinical study, thanks to the participation of PH patients.

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John and Tanecia making sure the IC and HPLC behave!

We cannot compete with the Verona team at the cooking game (I know I have worked with them a few years ago) but like them we try to spice work with good cheer!

In true American fashion we are a melting pot of different countries and cultures (Australia, Fiji, China, France, and USA) and it makes for interesting discussions, and a varied food menu.

Over the years we have had many occasions to be grateful to the OHF and to patients and their families, for the support you bring to our small international community.

Thank you! I’ll leave you with a lab picture tour.

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From the top left: John (Fiji), Jennifer (US), Brianna (US), Nicole (US), Sonia (France), Ross (Australia), Alex (US), Song Lian (China), Tanecia (US), May (US), Michelle (US).

*Please click here to visit the UAB Kidney Stone Laboratory website.

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