Monash University researchers have found what they call 'microscopic antennas' that play a vital role in kidney repair process.
They hope that the new discovery would be a crucial step towards a cure for fatal polycystic kidney disease.
"We have shown for the first time that the hair-like structures on kidney cells, called cilia, change their length in response to injury in human patients, growing up to four times their original length in the later stages of kidney repair," said Dr James Deane a researcher at the Centre for Inflammatory Disease at the Monash Medical Centre.
"These hair-like structures are antennas and the increases in their length amplify the signals they send to kidney cells at vital stages of repair.
"We think this is how they turn off the repair process when it is complete and allow the kidney to start working normally again," he added.
Deane said that if the switching on and off the repair process is not properly controlled, rapidly reproducing cells will distort the tubes of the kidney and prevent them from functioning properly, which is what appears to happen in people that have polycystic kidney disease, a condition which is currently untreatable.
"Our research helps put a logical framework behind what is happening in polycystic kidney disease, as the mutations that cause the disease can damage the hair-like structures of kidneys cells," Deane said.
"We hope that this work will lead to new ways of treating both kidney injury and polycystic kidney disease," he added.
The study appears in Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.