Dr. James GeorgeUAB Department of Surgery Professor and Associate Vice Chair of Research James George, Ph.D. has been awarded the Anderson Innovation Award for COVID-19 in Kidney Diseases, made possible by an generous donation from the Anderson Family.

The one-year, $20,000 award will fund George’s research project, “COVID-19 and Acute Kidney Injury in a Ferret Model.” A large proportion of COVID-19 patients experience acute kidney injury, and it is not clear why this happens. George’s study plans to use animal models to determine the full extent of the virus’s effect on human kidneys.

George will collaborate with Department of Pediatrics Adjunct Faculty Member Steven Rowe, M.D., MSPH, who is currently using the ferret model to study lung injury due to SARS-Cov-2 infection. Rowe will share kidneys from infected ferrets that George’s team will then analyze to determine if the effects on ferret kidneys is similar to those observed in human COVID-19 patients.

The study is particularly interested to learn if the virus directly infects proximal tubule cells, which are known to express the ACE2 receptor. If ferrets prove to be a viable model, George will further develop the system to test interventions that could potentially mitigate or prevent kidney injury in COVID-19 patients.

“Our research here in the Department of Surgery and at UAB is very focused on improving patient experience, outcome and quality of life,” said George. “This study could answer pressing questions about the effects of COVID-19 on kidneys and allow us to mitigate or prevent kidney injury in COVID-19 patients. It is an exciting opportunity made possible by the Anderson Family.”