NYUAD Professor of Biology Kirsten Sadler Edepli has been awarded a Research Project Grant (R01) from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), a branch of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), to study aging with a focus on understanding how the liver loses its capacity to regenerate over time. The four-year grant is awarded for nearly 1 million USD.
This award marks a significant recognition as it is the first time that the NIH has made an award to a sole Principal Investigator (PI) who is an NYUAD faculty member. Research funding from the NIH is extremely competitive, with under 15 percent of applications being funded in any given grant season. There were over 2,600 applications for R01 grants in 2022 and 494 were awarded. The application by Edepli, who is also an NYU Global Network Professor of Biology, and Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement and Engagement at NYU Abu Dhabi, scored in the 12th percentile. This current award will enable groundbreaking work in the biology of aging.
The R01 is the original and historically the oldest grant mechanism used by NIH. It provides support for research and development based on the mission of the NIH, which is comprised of institutes and centers that support specific areas of health-related research. This includes the NIDDK, which conducts and supports basic and clinical research on many of the most serious diseases affecting public health. Research grant applications are assigned to an Institute or Center based on receipt and referral guidelines, and many applications are assigned to multiple Institutes and Centers as interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research is encouraged.
Edepli is a geneticist and cell biologist who has pioneered the use of zebrafish as a model to study development, disease and regeneration. Her group focuses on the epigenetic regulation of toxicant responses, development and cancer in zebrafish, regeneration in mice and limb regeneration in octopus. She received a BA from Mount Holyoke College, a Masters in Medical Sciences from Harvard Medical School, a PhD in Cell and Developmental Biology from Harvard University, and was a postdoctoral fellow at MIT. She has also served on the faculty of Bosphorus University in Istanbul, Türkiye at The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York prior to joining the faculty at NYUAD.
The research carried out by her team is particularly important given that the risk of liver disease increases during aging, in part because the liver cannot regenerate in aged adults. The increasing incidence of liver disease in the Middle East is of particular concern: by 2030, annual liver-related deaths are estimated to rise by 295 percent in Saudi Arabia and by 270 percent in the UAE. Helping the liver to regenerate will alleviate the impact of this disease in elderly patients.