Scientists have discovered a cell in zebrafish that aids in regeneration of nephrons and improve kidney function. Understanding how non-mammalian vertebrates like zebrafish, carry out this remarkable regenerative process and why mammals have lost this ability might provide new ways to repair damaged human kidneys and dramatically extend and improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of patients with chronic renal failure.
Many non-mammalian vertebrates generate nephrons throughout their lives and can generate new nephrons following renal injury.
Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of Pittsburgh have identified and characterized, for the first time, a progenitor cell in adult zebrafish kidneys that can be transplanted from one fish to another and generate new nephrons.
Now that this cell has been identified it may be possible to better understand how to increase its number and capacity to generate nephrons.
Lead author, Alan Davidson, said, "We hope to eventually be able to cross species barriers and understand why similar cells, present in mouse and human kidneys during embryonic life, disappear around the time of birth".
The groups plan to continue studies on zebrafish and apply their data to mouse models and eventually humans.
The findings have been published in the journal Nature.