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Calcium Signal Lab researcher and BME PhD student Manu Ben Johny receives award for top research

April 16, 2014

BME graduate student Manu Ben Johny

Manu Ben Johny, PhD student in David Yue’s Lab

BME graduate student Manu Ben Johny has been honored with the Nupur Dinesh Thekdi Research Award at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine’s 2014 Young Investigators Day. Ben Johny was selected to receive the award based on his essay entitled “All in the family: conservation of calcium regulation across voltage-gated sodium and calcium channels.”

Manu is a seventh-year PhD student in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. As a student in Dr. David Yue’s Calcium Signals Laboratory since 2007, Ben Johny has already made as imprint on the research community with his contributions in a recent calcium transport study, and with his involvement in a published 2013 study entitled “Dynamic switching of calmodulin interactions underlies Ca2+ regulation of CaV1.3 channels.”

Manu’s research identified surprising ways in which cytosolic elevations in free Ca2+ could inhibit the activity of voltage-gated Na channels of the skeletal muscle, a finding with important implications for understanding the pathophysiology of myotonia. This work further showed how this modulation was really a part of a larger and ancient regulatory scheme that is conserved across both sodium and calcium ion channel superfamilies.

Long-time mentor and professor of Ben Johny, David Yue speaks very highly of his student saying, “Manu’s paper reports on a stunning discovery — an unexpected conservation of a modulatory module that has persisted across Na and Ca2+ channel superfamilies for more than a billion years. This finding may comment on where ion-channels came from, and also highlights new approaches to disease that may emerge by viewing Na and Ca2+ channels through the lens of a unified perspective.

The Young Investigator program celebrates the achievement and hard work of the school’s students, postdocs and research fellows as well as all Johns Hopkins’ research trainees. Thirteen graduate student and seven postdoctoral awards are presented each year — each named for a notable researcher students or faculty members of Johns Hopkins. The Nupur Dinesh Thekdi Award was established in 2002 in memory of Nupur Dinesh Thekdi, an MD PhD student at Johns Hopkins University. While only a select few can receive honors, the awardees realize they are part of something much greater than their individual research.

The Department of Biomedical Engineering congratulates and applauds Manu’s receipt of the Nupur Dinesh Thekdi Research Award and values his many contributions to research.