Society of Toxicology awards ‘Science Paper of the Year’ to RKCCOP researchers

Feb. 12, 2024
Society of Toxicology Awards_2024

The Society of Toxicology has awarded the Science Paper of the Year to researchers from the R. Ken Coit College of Pharmacy. 

The winning publication, titled “Increased Renal Expression of Complement Components in Patients with Liver Diseases: Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis, Alcohol-Associated, Viral Hepatitis, and Alcohol-Viral Combination,” explores the relationship between inflammatory liver diseases such as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), alcohol-associated liver disease (ALD), and hepatitis C virus (HCV), and their impact on kidney health. The Society of Toxicology Board of Publications recognized the study for its positive impact on the field.

The research team – including authors Kayla Frost, Joseph Jilek, Austin Thompson, Robert Klein, Shripad Sinari, Elmira Torabzedehkorasani, Dean Billheimer, Rick Schnellmann and Nathan Cherrington – investigated kidney biopsies from patients with various liver diseases. The study identified consistent kidney abnormalities, such as interstitial nephritis and fibrosis, along with changes in the expression of specific genes and proteins related to immune regulation. The findings suggest a link between liver inflammation and kidney dysfunction, identifying the complement C1q C chain as a promising marker for mechanistic analyses of renal damage related to liver injury and an instrumental tool in future analyses of liver disease impact on renal function. 

Graduate student, Austin Thompson, and Drs. Frost, Jilek, Schnellmann and Cherrington are authors representing the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology within the College of Pharmacy. Dr. Klein is from the Department of Pathology at the Banner University Medical Center and Drs. Sinari, Torabzedehkorasani and Billheimer represent the UArizona Center for Biomedical Informatics and Biostatistics. Billheimer is also the lead on the Data Science Resource in the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center’s (SWEHSC) Translational Research Support Core. 

Cherrington credits Frost, a 2022 graduate of the pharmacology and toxicology department, for her dedication. Frost currently works in the Investigative Toxicology and Pathology group at AbbVie, where she serves as a preclinical safety representative on early discovery immunology and oncology drug target programs.

“From a bank of 40,000 kidney samples, the dogged determination of Kayla and technical advice from her father, Dr. Steve Frost, helped to create the world’s first and largest renal biopsy repository with verified medical and social histories, including liver disease classification and associated kidney pathology and function,” Cherrington said. 

For Kayla Frost, it was exciting to build a repository of human samples that had never been investigated before. 

“Investigating such a novel set of samples involves starting a project with a lot of unknowns; it was exciting to let the data drive our curiosity and elevate our understanding of kidney function during liver diseases,” she said. 

The research also called for controlling variability in a human population, which they were able to overcome with her father’s assistance. 

“My father’s medical experience helped us interpret hundreds of medical charts and exclude confounding factors, such as diseases, medications and various test results,” she said. “He was a critical factor in determining the appropriate samples to analyze and put in months of complex work that only a father would commit to.” 

Cherrington also credits SWEHSC: namely, the Omics Facility Core for conducting the transcriptomics and proteomics analyses and the Translational Research Support Core Data Science Resource for helping the team understand the data and the causes for changes in the kidney because of liver disease.

The team will be honored during the 2024 SOT Annual Meeting and ToxExpo, March 10-14, in Salt Lake City. 

“The Ken Coit College of Pharmacy has a long track record of outstanding toxicology research and outstanding toxicologists who come from our program. This award just validates and highlights the excellent training of the students here at the University of Arizona in toxicology,” Cherrington said.



Toxicological Sciences Paper of the Year Award 

The research team – including authors Kayla Frost, Joseph Jilek, Austin Thompson, Robert Klein, Shripad Sinari, Elmira Torabzedehkorasani, Dean Billheimer, Rick Schnellmann and Nathan Cherrington

Selected by the SOT Board of Publications, this award recognizes the author(s) of a paper published in the official SOT journal, Toxicological Sciences, during the 12-month period terminating with the June issue of the calendar year preceding the Annual Meeting at which the award is presented.


Merit Award

David L. Eaton, PhD, ATS, DABT

Awarded for a career dedicated to the advancement of the science of toxicology and the Society of Toxicology. This award recognizes an SOT member who has made distinguished contributions to toxicology throughout an entire career in areas such as research, teaching, regulatory activities, consulting, and service to the Society.


Undergraduate Research Awards

  • Paige Lindberg - Quantitative Identification of Xenobiotic Transporters in MASH Progression Using Human Urine–Derived Extracellular Vesicles
  • Mina Alaaldin - Alterations of Eluxadoline Pharmacokinetics in a Rodent Model of Metabolic Dysfunction–Associated Steatohepatitis

These awards recognize outstanding undergraduates who have not yet received their bachelor’s degrees and are presenting research at the SOT Annual Meeting and ToxExpo. The goal of these awards is to foster interest in graduate studies in the field of toxicology.


Diversity Undergraduate Student Awards

  • Amanda Adams
  • Taylor Massey
  • Vivianna Metzler

This award provides the opportunity for promising undergraduate science majors interested in research careers to attend the SOT Undergraduate Diversity Program at the SOT Annual Meeting and ToxExpo.


Conklin-Sheevers Endowed Award from the Regulatory and Safety Evaluation Specialty Section of the Society of Toxicology

Lisa Tran, PhD Candidate, Pharm-Tox