Jiaojiao Xu

I joined Dr. Jennifer Pluznick’s lab for postdoctoral training in October 2018. My research focused on two different aspects of gut microbiome and host-interaction: (a) elucidating the influence of gut microbes on glomerular filtration rate in health and disease, and (b) uncovering a novel role of a sensory receptor (OLFR558) that responds to gut microbial metabolites in blood pressure control. Males have a higher blood pressure than premenopausal women with ~10 mmHg. In the second project, I found that OLFR558 is required for sex differences in blood pressure. Olfr558 KO females exhibit increased blood pressure whereas KO males have decreased diastolic blood pressure. A rare OR51E1 (human ortholog) missense variant has a statistically significant sex interaction effect with diastolic blood pressure, increasing diastolic blood pressure in women but decreasing it in men. Uncovering the origin of sex differences in blood pressure regulation can help to move the field toward a more thoughtful approach to blood pressure management in both men and women.

Questions & Answers

Why did you choose Johns Hopkins for your work?

The Johns Hopkins University has a distinguished reputation worldwide, and is renowned for its excellence across diverse fields such as medicine, public health and research. The community at Hopkins is not only exceptionally skilled but also welcoming and supportive. My experience here has been delightful, both professionally and personally.


What does receiving this award mean to you personally and professionally? Do you have any connection with the particular award you received?

The Young Investigator Award is highly competitive, and being honored with this accolade has provided me with significant encouragement. It instills a newfound confidence in me to persist in my research endeavors with determination and enthusiasm. This recognition is a powerful motivator, propelling me forward in my academic and professional journey.


What contributed to your project’s success?

The success of my project can be attributed to various factors, including my keen interests, available opportunities, specialized skills and invaluable guidance. Each of these elements played a crucial role, and without any one of them, completing the project successfully would have been challenging. With a strong interest in sensory receptors in unconventional places, I joined Dr. Pluznick’s lab. She offered me to delve into the project focusing on “uncovering the renal functional role of OLFR558.” Integral to the execution of these specialized skills, particularly in telemetry surgery and wire myograph techniques for studying mouse mesenteric arteries. While these skills were essential, refining and honing them through continuous practice was imperative for the project’s progress and eventual completion. Crucially, effective guidance from Dr. Pluznick and my colleagues proved invaluable. Their expertise, mentorship and collaborative efforts provided me with the necessary support and direction throughout the project, enabling me to navigate challenges and achieve our objectives successfully.  


What thoughts do you have about Young Investigators’ Day itself, as a celebration of the roles students and fellows play in research at Johns Hopkins?

Young Investigators’ Day is truly remarkable! It serves as a source of inspiration and encouragement for students and fellows alike.


What has been your best/most memorable experience while at Johns Hopkins?

One of the most unforgettable experiences for me was learning telemetry surgery on mice. I must admit that mastering this technique was not easy and required dedicated practice. Initially, I struggled to grasp the intricacies of the procedure, despite my efforts over several weeks. It became a consuming challenge, often occupying my thoughts even in my sleep, where I dreamt of successfully performing the surgery.


However, through perseverance and a thorough understanding of the training materials, I eventually achieved success. It was through consistent practice and unwavering determination that I gained the confidence and proficiency needed to excel in this skill. This journey taught me a valuable lesson: With confidence and persistence, daunting tasks can be conquered.


What are your plans over the next year or so? Graduating, looking for faculty positions, etc.?

I am currently actively pursuing a faculty position in the job market. I am optimistic about advancing to the next stage. Keeping my fingers crossed for a successful outcome!


Tell me something interesting about yourself that makes you unique. Do you have any special hobbies, interests or life experiences?

I used to enjoy hiking. However, my focus has shifted as I am now occupied with caring for my little bundle of joy. While it can be tiring, the experience is filled with sweetness and profound happiness.