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Jeff Sands, MD, Becomes 91st President of the American Physiological Society

 Bethesda, Md. (May 17, 2018)—Jeff Sands, MD, assumed the presidency of the American Physiological Society (APS) in April, immediately following the APS annual meeting at Experimental Biology 2018. Sands is the Juha P. Kokko Professor of Medicine and Physiology and the director of the renal division at Emory University in Atlanta.

“I have been active in section, committee, journal or council activities since 1992. As a result, I have been privileged to know and work with many distinguished APS presidents and members. I greatly appreciate the faith shown by the membership in electing me to serve as the 91st president,” Sands wrote in his presidential editorial in The Physiologist. “This is especially true since I have an MD degree rather than a PhD in physiology. Although I self-identify as a renal physiologist first and a nephrologist second when I introduce myself around the council or study section table, the honor of being elected president of the APS means to me that I have been accepted by the membership as a true member of the physiology community. I am truly appreciative of this honor.

“I am passionate about physiology, proud to call myself a physiologist, and still get excited whenever I have a paper accepted in an APS journal. In my dual role as a physician and a scientist, I understand how physiology is the basis of medicine,” Sands wrote. “I encourage all of us to be proud to call ourselves physiologists, regardless of the department or center where we have our primary appointments.

“As president, I will advocate enthusiastically for the critical role of physiology. I will seek innovative ways to foster and train the next generation of physiologists and leaders.”

Despite the challenges facing the discipline of physiology—including fewer physiology departments at universities and ongoing research funding concerns—Sands is optimistic about the future of physiology. In his editorial he outlines recent and significant research advances in the field.

About Jeff Sands, MD

Jeff Sands, MD, is the Juha P. Kokko Professor of Medicine and Physiology and director of the renal division at Emory University School of Medicine. Sands received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard College in 1977 and his medical degree from Boston University School of Medicine in 1981. He trained in Internal Medicine at the University of Chicago from 1981 to 1983 and at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) from 1983 to 1984. Sands obtained his renal research fellowship training in the laboratory of Kidney and Electrolyte Metabolism, NHLBI, NIH, from 1984 to 1988, after which he did a clinical nephrology fellowship at Emory from 1988 to 1989.

Sands joined the Emory faculty as an assistant professor in 1989 and was promoted to associate professor in 1993 and to professor 1998. He accepted the Kokko professorship and division director position at Emory in 2002. He served as associate dean for clinical and translational research from 2006 to 2010 and as executive vice-chair of medicine from 2009 to 2015.

An APS member for more than 30 years, Sands was editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Physiology—Renal Physiology from 2001 to 2007 and is a current editorial board member of Physiological Reviews. Sands has been especially active in the Renal Section and served as awards chair, treasurer, section chair and program representative. He served as an APS councilor from 2003 to 2006 and was the Finance Committee chair from 2009 to 2014.

Sands’ research is focused on defining the molecular physiology of urea transporters, since urea transport is a key component in the urine concentrating mechanism. These studies use rat and mouse models of abnormal concentrating and diluting ability. Sands uses a combination of isolated perfused tubule studies to measure urea transport. He also uses antibodies to measure changes in the amount, phosphorylation or localization of the urea transport proteins. Using perfused rat terminal inner medullary collecting ducts (IMCDs), his lab showed that vasopressin—a key hormonal regulator of the urine concentrating mechanism—not only affects water transport within minutes but also stimulates urea transport. His group demonstrated that this dramatic response to vasopressin occurred via phosphorylation of the UT-A1 and UT-A3 urea transporters and then showed that UT-A1 is accumulated in the apical membrane of rat IMCDs. The researchers then demonstrated how these findings were translated into animal models of urine-concentrating disorders such as diabetes mellitus.

More recently, his group investigated whether there are non-vasopressin–mediated pathways that increase urea and water transport as a potential strategy to treat congenital nephrogenic diabetes insipidus, which is characterized by a high volume of dilute urine and increased thirst. The group used knockout mice to show that urea transport can be stimulated by hyper-osmolality, independent of vasopressin, through PKCα. The team also showed that activating AMPK with metformin can increase urea and water transport, and urine concentrating ability in V2R knockout mice and in rats treated with tolvaptan, a V2-vasopressin receptor inhibitor. Sands and long-time colleague Janet Klein are currently pursuing studies of AMPK activators for the treatment of X-linked congenital nephrogenic diabetes insipidus. Their work has led to a recently issued patent and the formation of a start-up company.

Sands has received numerous awards for his work, including the APS Gottschalk Award, the American Heart Association Distinguished Achievement Award and the American Society of Nephrology’s Brenner Lecture. He has authored more than 150 peer-reviewed manuscripts, the majority of which are published in APS journals. He also has over 90 invited reviews or book chapters and has co-edited a book. He has given over 30 invited talks at national and international scientific meetings and over 100 invited lectures at other U.S. or international universities.

Sands and his wife of over 30 years, Abbe, have two grown children. Jared is a lawyer who is working in Montgomery County, Maryland. Jenna recently graduated from Emory College with a degree in biology.

Read Sands’ full editorial and biography in The Physiologist.

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: For more information, contact the APS Communications Office or 301-634-7209.

Physiology is the study of how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function in health and disease. Established in 1887, the American Physiological Society (APS) was the first U.S. society in the biomedical sciences field. The Society represents more than 10,500 members and publishes 15 peer-reviewed journals with a worldwide readership.