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Expert in human polycystic diseases receives American Society of Nephrology’s top honor

Medicine@Yale, 2013 - November


Stefan Somlo, M.D., the C.N.H. Long Professor of Medicine, professor of genetics, and chief of the Section of Nephrology in the Department of Medicine, has been named the 2013 recipient of the Homer W. Smith Award from the American Society of Nephrology. The award is presented annually to an individual whose achievements have fundamentally affected the science of nephrology.

Somlo’s laboratory studies the human polycystic diseases of the kidney and liver, with the goal of achieving understanding of basic mechanisms that will translate to development of specific treatments. Polycystic kidney disease affects more than 12 million individuals worldwide and causes progressive disruption of the normal structure and function of the kidney through growth of fluid-filled cysts. The most significant clinical consequence to patients is the loss of kidney function, necessitating renal replacement by dialysis or transplantation.

Somlo’s team has identified four of the genes responsible for these human diseases, and studied the functions of the protein products of these genes in cells and animal models. They have discovered the mechanisms by which mutations in these genes result in cyst formation, and have also defined the way in which these protein products work together to maintain normal kidney structure and function.

Somlo earned his B.A. at Harvard University and his M.D. at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. He completed his internship and residency in internal medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and a fellowship in nephrology at Yale School of Medicine (YSM).

The Homer W. Smith Award, established in 1964, is named for one of the major intellectual forces in renal physiology. Smith spent most of his career at New York University, where he developed and refined his concepts of glomerular filtration and tubular absorption and secretion of solutes. His findings and insights form the cornerstones of current understanding of renal function. His use of comparative approaches to explain normal human physiology stands as a model for students of biology and scientists attempting to unravel the mysteries of normal and disordered renal function.

Somlo joins a distinguished group of Yale faculty who have received the award. The previous Yale awardees include Peter S. Aronson, M.D., the C.N.H. Long Professor of Medicine and professor of cellular and molecular physiology; Walter F. Boron, M.D., Ph.D., professor of cellular and molecular physiology; pathologist and cellular biologist Marilyn Farquhar, Ph.D., who was on the YSM faculty from 1973 to 1990; Richard P. Lifton, M.D., Ph.D., chair and Sterling Professor of Genetics, professor of medicine, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator; the late Steven C. Hebert, M.D., chair and C.N.H. Long Professor of Cellular and Molecular Physiology and professor of medicine; Emile Boulpaep, M.D., professor of cellular and molecular physiology; Gerhard H. Giebisch, M.D., professor emeritus of and senior research scientist in cellular and molecular physiology; and the late Robert W. Berliner, M.D., professor of cellular and molecular physiology and dean of YSM from 1973 to 1984.

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