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Development of in vitro kidney model revolutionizes scientific research

In a breakthrough study, researchers from the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles have created an in vitro kidney model that could revolutionize the research for diseases such as chronic kidney disease (CKD). Conditions like CKD can lower a kidney’s ability to perform the vital function of filtering blood and flushing out toxins from the body. Around 1.4 million individuals suffering from CKD rely on dialysis or kidney transplant to survive. Development of novel treatments are dependent on a deeper understanding of the progression of the disease, but researchers have not been able to create an accurate model of kidney filtration in vitro. The research has been published in the journal Nature Communications.

The kidney consists of specialized structures called glomeruli. Every glomerulus has a filtration barrier comprising of two thin layers of highly specialized cells along with a membrane, which operates as a selective barrier. When blood flows through each glomerulus, the toxins and small molecules can pass through, but proteins and other essential components are retained in the bloodstream. In people suffering from kidney-related conditions, this mechanism breaks down. The study was conducted by Dr. Perin and Dr. Da Sacco in the GOFARR Laboratory for Organ Regenerative Research and Cell Therapeutics in Urology with co-director Roger De Filippo, MD, CHLA’s Saban Research Institute. Astgik Petrosyan, a CHLA postdoctoral research fellow, was the lead author of the research. The team was working to understand why and how the glomeruli fail to filter blood. Dr. Da Sacco says that the replication of the glomerulus in vitro has been a significant challenge in the discipline of kidney research.

The model is a giant stride in the existing standard of in vitro kidney studies. Dr. Perin explains that our system acts like a biologically, physiologically precise glomerulus. The research will open new doors for better understanding of what remains unknown i.e., the molecular mechanisms of injury in CKD and importantly, how the damage can be prevented, adds Dr. Perin.

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