Team uses new technique to uncover the building blocks of kidney regeneration

June 16, 2014
Team uses new technique to uncover the building blocks of kidney regeneration

Doctors and scientists have for years been astonished to observe patients with kidney disease experiencing renal regeneration. The kidney, unlike its neighbor the liver, was universally understood to be a static organ once it had fully developed.

Now a new study conducted by researchers at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Aviv University and Stanford University turns that theory on its head by pinpointing the precise cellular signalling responsible for renal regeneration and exposing the multi-layered nature of kidney growth. The research, in Cell Reports, was conducted by principal investigators Dr. Benjamin Dekel of TAU's Sackler School of Medicine and Sheba Medical Center and Dr. Irving L. Weissman of Stanford University's School of Medicine, working with teams of researchers from both universities.

"We wanted to change the way people thought about kidneys – about internal organs altogether," said Dr. Dekel, who specializes in , genetics, and nephrology. "Very little is known even now about the way our internal organs function at the single cell level. This study flips the paradigm that kidney cells are static – in fact, kidney cells are continuously growing, all the time."

Dr. Dekel began researching the subject three years ago while on sabbatical at Stanford University. While the laboratory experiments and stem cell research were conducted at Stanford, the results were analyzed by researchers at TAU and Stanford.

According to Dr. Dekel, scientists knew kidney cells could reproduce outside the body, but the physiological process taking place inside the body at the single cell level was never explored. Uncovering that process became the focus of his efforts.

Dr. Dekel and his research team conducted a study using a "rainbow mouse" model developed at Stanford's Weissman lab, a mouse genetically altered to express one of four alternative fluorescent markers called "reporters" in each cell. The markers allowed researchers to trace cell growth in vivo —growth, they were surprised to find, that was sectional and multi-directional.

"We were amazed to find that renal growth does not depend on a single stem cell, but is rather compartmentalized," said Dr. Dekel.

"Each part of the nephron is responsible for its own growth, each segment responsible for its own development, like a tree trunk and branches – each branch grows at a different pace and in a different direction."

Using the rainbow mouse, the researchers were able to pinpoint a specific molecule responsible for renal cellular growth called the "WNT signal". Once activated in specific precursor cells in each kidney segment, the WNT signal results in robust renal cellular growth and generation of long branches of cells.

"Our aim was to use a new technique to analyze an old problem," said Dr. Dekel. "No one had ever used a rainbow mouse model to monitor development of . It was exciting to use these genetic tricks to discover that cellular growth was occurring all the time in the kidney – that, in fact, the kidney was constantly remodelling itself in a very specific mode."

Dr. Dekel and the research team are paving the way for novel cellular and molecular therapeutics to achieve human kidney regeneration and alleviate shortage of kidney organs for transplantation. "This study teaches us that in order to regenerate the entire kidney segments different grown outside of our bodies will have to be employed," he said. "In addition, If we were able to further activate the WNT pathway, then in cases of disease or trauma we could activate the phenomena for growth and really boost regeneration to help patients. This is a platform for the development of new therapeutics, allowing us to follow the growth and expansion of cells following treatment."

Explore further: Body's fatty folds may help fight kidney failure

Related Stories

Body's fatty folds may help fight kidney failure

March 21, 2014
A fatty fold of tissue within the abdomen that is a rich source of stem cells can help heal diseased kidneys when fused to the organs, according to a study conducted in rats. The findings, which appear in an upcoming issue ...

Researchers generate kidney tubular cells from stem cells

December 19, 2013
Researchers have successfully coaxed stem cells to become kidney tubular cells, a significant advance toward one day using regenerative medicine, rather than dialysis and transplantation, to treat kidney failure. The findings ...

Intravenous kidney cell transplant experiments raise hope for future human kidney failure treatments

May 31, 2012
Indiana University School of Medicine scientists have successfully transplanted primary kidney cells intravenously to treat renal failure in rats, pointing the way to a possible future alternative to kidney transplants and ...

Low cholesterol linked with worse survival in patients with kidney cancer

June 12, 2014
People are often told to reduce their cholesterol to improve their heart health, but new research suggests that low cholesterol may increase kidney cancer patients' risk of dying from their disease. The findings, which are ...

Printed kidney tissue closer to reality

May 28, 2014
Queensland researchers are one step closer to printing 3D human kidney tissue thanks to a partnership between The University of Queensland and a US biotechnology company.

Targeting certain kidney cells may help treat kidney failure

January 9, 2014
New research reveals that certain cells contribute to kidney function decline, making them attractive targets for treatments against kidney failure. The findings will appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American ...

Recommended for you

Brain cells found to control aging

July 26, 2017
Scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine have found that stem cells in the brain's hypothalamus govern how fast aging occurs in the body. The finding, made in mice, could lead to new strategies for warding off age-related ...

Post-stroke patients reach terra firma with new exosuit technology

July 26, 2017
Upright walking on two legs is a defining trait in humans, enabling them to move very efficiently throughout their environment. This can all change in the blink of an eye when a stroke occurs. In about 80% of patients post-stroke, ...

Molecular hitchhiker on human protein signals tumors to self-destruct

July 24, 2017
Powerful molecules can hitch rides on a plentiful human protein and signal tumors to self-destruct, a team of Vanderbilt University engineers found.

Researchers develop new method to generate human antibodies

July 24, 2017
An international team of scientists has developed a method to rapidly produce specific human antibodies in the laboratory. The technique, which will be described in a paper to be published July 24 in The Journal of Experimental ...

New vaccine production could improve flu shot accuracy

July 24, 2017
A new way of producing the seasonal flu vaccine could speed up the process and provide better protection against infection.

A sodium surprise: Engineers find unexpected result during cardiac research

July 20, 2017
Irregular heartbeat—or arrhythmia—can have sudden and often fatal consequences. A biomedical engineering team at Washington University in St. Louis examining molecular behavior in cardiac tissue recently made a surprising ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.