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Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
A graduate of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, one of the premier medical schools in India, Abhay Vats, MD, obtained additional postgraduate training and a degree in pediatrics in India as well as of the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh, UK. He then had five years of pediatric nephrology fellowship training at the University of Minnesota, which provided a strong background in academics and research. The evolution of his research interests has led Dr. Vats to pursue two areas of research: genetic aspects of nephrotic syndrome/focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), and genetic/biomarker studies of polyoma viruses in relation to renal transplantation.
During a relatively brief period of time Dr. Vats' NIH-sponsored (K-23, R-21) investigations uncovered three new genetic which predisposed several members of different families with severe nephrotic syndrome/FSGS which are currently unresponsive to any medical interventions. These findings were published in prestigious journals. In selecting familial nephrotic syndrome as the focus of his research, Dr. Vats has chosen a very exciting area of investigation that is primed for major advances in knowledge. The insights gained from identifying the genes involved in heritable nephrotic syndrome will undoubtedly enhance the understanding of proteinuric states and podocyte biology.
Dr. Vats' second area of investigation focuses on genetic/biomarker studies of polyoma viruses in relation to renal transplantation. Soon after his arrival, he became intimately involved in the care of a young renal transplant recipient who was admitted with severe renal allograft dysfunction. Histologic studies implicated BK virus as the etiology of this disorder. This was the first documented case of BKV nephritis in a child and he was both dismayed and intrigued by the difficulties in diagnosing, managing and following this complex infection. He then diligently designed novel, sensitive and precise quantitative PCR assays for detecting BK virus in blood and urine samples utilizing real-time PCR quantitation (TaqMan assay). Such testing has proven to be very successful and his method is currently widely utilized to diagnose and to monitor the response to treatment of this previously elusive polyoma virus associated nephropathy (PVAN). He also found that the anti viral agent cidofovir, when used in very low doses, can decrease or eliminate the viral load from both urine and blood and can help improve the outcome of PVAN. For these accomplishments Dr. Vats has received the Young Investigator Award of the American Society of Transplantation in the years 2000 and 2001. Because PVAN is increasingly recognized as an important cause of allograft loss Dr. Vats is persuing further NIH-sponsored (RO-1) studies designed to identify risk factors and clinical correlates of PVAN.
Dr Vats epitomizes the role of the physician scientist. He has taken complex medical disorders and developed creative and ground-breaking tools to identify genes involved in the pathogenesis of familial nephrotic syndrome and to diagnose and treat PVAN. His studies have indeed changed the way we currently manage such patients.