Dr. Pankaj Kapahi PhD, The Buck Institute for Research on Aging

Drs. Stoller, Chi and Kapahi have been working together for several years now developing a novel model for the study of urinary stones and for the first time demonstrate a genetic screen to effectively identify suppressors of stone formation using Drosophila melanogaster (the fruit fly). Dr. Kapahi's expertise in using this fly model to study how various physiological and molecular processes, including the role of calcification, are influenced by nutrients to impact organismal health and survival is integral to their combined research activities.  His work has relevance to a number of age-related human diseases including diabetes, kidney stone formation, intestinal diseases, cancer and obesity. 

Their findings show that regulating zinc levels may represent a novel approach to modulating ectopic biomineralization, a phenomenon present in a wide range of physiological and pathophysiological processes, including urinary stone disease. Their studies support Drosophila melanogaster as an excellent, genetically-based, translational model to studying urinary stone formation. Their research focuses on the development of this model to understand how other non-calcium metals may also play a key role in urinary stone formation.

Characterizing the role of non-calcium metals in human and fly stones by a combination of genetic and pharmacologic approaches may give insight into the mechanism(s) behind stone formation. Investigating the use of commonly available chelators like aspirin in the Drosophila model should identify potential targets for drug development that over time will lead to the production of new medications for the treatment and prevention of human urinary stones. Our goal is to advance our ability to treat patients with new medical therapies to decrease stone recurrence and limit the need for surgical intervention.

Read more about Dr. Kapahi's research on his Buck Institute Profile.