Massive Single-Cell Survey of Kidney Cell Types Reveals New Paths to Disease


Source: Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania

Summary: Researchers in a new study sheds light on specific cell types that drive normal or diseased kidney function at the molecular level.


The kidney is a highly complex organ, far beyond a simple filter. Its function requires intricate interactions between many highly specialized cell types to extract waste, balances body fluids, form urine, regulate blood pressure, and secrete hormones. The overall prevalence of chronic kidney disease in America is about 14%, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania shines a light on specific cell types that drive normal or diseased kidney function at the molecular level. They also identified three novel cell populations, along with all previously described kidney cell types. The study findings were published in the journal Science.

Filtering organ

Cell function by disease gene mapping. Credit: Katalin Susztak, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania

By sequencing the RNA from 57,979 cells from healthy mouse kidneys, the team found that mutations in genes that have similar characteristics are expressed in a single unique differentiated cell type. The team also unexpectedly found that what they thought were two irreversibly differentiated and distinct cell types in the kidney could convert to each other. The interconversion was also observed in kidney disease mouse models. They analyzed a large cohort of human patient samples from the human kidney biobank managed by Susztak and found that the interconversion might also occur in patients with kidney disease and likely contributes to a condition when the kidneys cannot remove enough acid from the body.

Prof. Katalin Susztak said, “Knowledge from our survey will enhance our understanding of the roles that different cell types play during normal kidney functioning and dynamic changes occurring during disease development.”


More Information: J. Park et al, “Single-cell transcriptomics of the mouse kidney reveals potential cellular targets of kidney disease,” Science (2018). science.sciencemag.org/cgi/doi … 1126/science.aar2131


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