BLOCKED KIDNEYS in newborn mice can repair themselves following the surgical removal of the obstruction. Researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA, made the discovery while studying congenital obstructive nephropathy and the possibility of regrowing damaged kidneys. They believe that this research will ultimately lead to the regenerate and maintain kidney function in humans.
During the study, the researchers surgically removed blockages that were affecting the kidneys of neonatal mice. When the surgery was complete, the researchers found that the murine kidneys began to effectively repair themselves at a surprisingly fast pace. The research team identified ‘precursor cells’, which are more prevalent during kidney development, as key players in the process of kidney repair. The researchers hope to utilise human precursor cells to repair kidneys in children and adults by waking the cells up.
Dr Maria Luisa S. Sequeira-Lopez, Child Health Research Centre, University of Virginia School of Medicine, outlined the process by which the kidneys are repaired: “When you obstruct the kidney and you keep it obstructed, its vasculature shrinks, but the other unobstructed kidney grows many more branches, like it is trying to compensate.” She continued: “If you release the obstruction, then the vasculature of the previously obstructed kidney regenerates and grows dramatically initiating the regeneration of the whole kidney.”
Congenital obstructive nephropathy can lead to chronic kidney disease. The obstruction can occur in newborn babies as a result of several factors, including impaired urinary tract development, and imminent surgery is vital for kidney repair. The researchers hope that their findings will ultimately lead to the treatment of children and adults who have kidney damage. Dr Sequeira-Lopez concluded: “Studying the developing kidney or the early postnatal kidney may give us cues of how to push the precursors or how to wake up precursors in the adult to regenerate and maintain the kidney function.” This research is relevant not just in the treatment of congenital nephropathy, but in the treatment of all forms of kidney disease.