Jennifer Charlton, MD, Awarded $2.8 Million to Study Vitamin D Metabolism After Preterm Birth

April 3, 2024 by

Jennifer Charlton UVA

Jennifer Charlton, MD

Jennifer Charlton, MD, MSc, an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Division of Nephrology, was awarded a $2.8 million R01 grant to study vitamin D metabolism following preterm birth.

Individuals born preterm have an increased risk for chronic kidney disease. Exposure to the extrauterine environment and life-saving therapies prior to the completion of gestation disrupts the formation of nephrons which contribute to the pathogenesis to chronic kidney.

In 2020, the Charlton research group published evidence that the vitamin D pathway was disrupted in a mouse model of preterm birth. Their findings suggest a reduction in the activation of vitamin D and increased in the degradation of activated vitamin D in mice born preterm. This finding is important as the kidney is the major source for vitamin D activation and activated vitamin D is critical for the maintenance of healthy podocytes.

In the newly funded study, Dr. Charlton, in collaboration with multiple principal investigators Kimberly Reidy, MD, at Children’s Hospital of Montefiore and Masako Suzuki, PhD, DVM, at Texas A&M University, will investigate how vitamin D affects nephron formation including podocyte differentiation in a preterm model. The research team will use advanced technologies such as sequencing the kidney at a single cell level and contrast enhanced MRI to count nephrons, to understand if supplementation of active vitamin D could benefit kidney development.

The outcome of this study could lead to the first ever therapeutic agent aimed at reducing chronic kidney disease in infants born preterm. Furthermore, supplementation of active vitamin D has the potential to also improve other developing organs such as the lung, brain and eye that depend on vitamin D.

Collaborators on this project include: MPIs Kimberly Reidy, MD, Children’s Hospital of Montefiore and Masako Suzuki, PhD, DVM, Texas A&M University; Kevin Bennett, PhD, Washington University; and Mark Conaway, PhD, University of Virginia.

Follow the researchers on X:

  • Dr. Charlton: @JenniferCharlt7; @UVAPedNeph; @UVAPediatrics
  • Dr. Reidy: @KimReidy2; @EinsteinMed; @MontefiorePeds
  • Dr. Suzuki: @masako_suzuki; @AgriLife; @TAMU


Filed Under: Research