Courtney Willey

Research Assistant I

Studies the Hibernating Kidney of the American Black Bear to help uncover a therapeutic treatment for chronic kidney disease.

I am a post-baccalaureate student working to identify the biological mechanisms underlying the hibernating kidney of the American Black Bear with hopes to continue my education in the field of biology.

The American Black Bear has a unique genetic adaptation that allows them to nearly shut down their kidneys (and other important metabolic processes) during hibernation and completely regain their kidney function as hibernation ends. In humans, a sedentary lifestyle such as this would cause a plethora of metabolic issues, yet the American Black Bear escapes this.

My goal is to form a well-annotated genomic sequence for the American Black Bear and investigate the biological mechanisms behind their unique ability to conserve kidney function. Identifying the biological pathway that leads to this conservation may provide a therapeutic treatment option for those with chronic kidney disease. If a patient were able to conserve the function of their kidney like the American Black Bear, their quality of life and lifespan may be drastically improved.