Faculty Profile: Navjot Singh Pabla, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry

Navjot Singh Pabla

The benefits of cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) are well known, yet with its benefits come some very serious risks, including acute kidney injury (AKI). In fact, some 30 percent of all patients undergoing cardiac surgery will experience kidney injury; some of patients will experience injury so profound it will require dialysis.

Navjot Singh Pabla, PhD, assistant professor pf Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry at The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy is seeking ways to identify those at risk for surgery-related AKI before it occurs. “It's a disease that you can't cure,” he said, “but kidney injury can be predicted.”

AKI occurs when a buildup of waste products in the blood stresses the kidney’s ability to keep a balance of fluid in the body, resulting in a sudden decrease in kidney function or kidney damage within a few hours or few days. AKI can lead to chronic kidney disease or renal failure. Even mild AKI can cause long-term health problems.

There can be predicating factors, including use of certain medications, that may affect AKI during bypass said Pabla. “It’s a conundrum of many things compromising kidneys; surgery can be the tipping point. Understanding these should make it easier to predict likelihood of kidney failure.”

A desire for a career in research brought Pabla to the US. After an undergraduate degree in Biotechnology from India’s University of Gujarat and a master’s degree from University of Baroda, Gujarat, Pabla moved to the US, where he earned a PhD in Biomedical Sciences from the Medical College of Georgia, Augusta in 2009. While there, he also served as a graduate research assistant and PhD candidate in the Department of Cellular Biology and Anatomy and completed a postdoctoral fellowship.

After a second postdoctoral fellowship in the Division of Biology at California Institute of Technology, Pabla became a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. It was there he joined Alex Sparreboom, now a professor of Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry at Ohio State.

Pabla says Sparreboom's work on transporters and transport modulators for use in cancer therapy overlaps nicely with his own “Our recent work has identified several protein kinases and membrane transporters as therapeutic targets for renal disorders. The overall goal of these studies is to identify new therapeutic strategies to treat acute kidney injury and renal cell carcinoma, diseases for which no effective therapies are currently available.” Sparreboom and Pabla, along with  Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry division chair Sharyn Baker shared their findings as co-authors of “A phosphotyrosine switch regulates organic cation transporters,” which was recently published in Nature Communications.

In addition to identifying factors that lead to AKI, Pabla wants to find drugs that can prevent kidney injury “There is not yet a drug to cure AKI, but I am working on identifying which proteins are causing kidney injury, then finding drugs to block the proteins.”