Kidney Program

The HSCI Kidney Program is a collective of Harvard scientists at Harvard-affiliated hospitals and schools that are collaborating to identify new treatments for patients with kidney disease.

One of the reasons that renal failure is so common is the inability of our kidneys to form new nephrons (the functional unit of the kidney). The focus of the HSCI Kidney Program is to understand the biology, differentiation, maintenance, repair, and diseases of the nephron, with the goal of developing new therapies.

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Key Research Questions

The HSCI Kidney Program employs the use of patient-derived iPS cells, transgenic tools, and zebrafish disease models to answer the following questions:

  • What are the molecular mechanisms that drive nephron regeneration?
  • What are the precursors of kidney tubule cells?
  • How is renal stem cell proliferation regulated?

Key Scientific Results

Scientific findings from the HSCI Kidney Program include:

  • The in vitro differentiation of kidney tubule cells from stem cells.
  • Cells replacing kidney epithelial cells after injury are derived from the epithelium itself rather than a population of interstitial stem cells with no specific population of proximal tubule cells being responsible for replacement of dead cells.
  • A program of developmental growth factors is re-activated to promote stem cell-based kidney regeneration in zebrafish. 
  • The finding that individual nephrons do not come from individual progenitor cells. Rather, two different cell types coalesce to form nephrogenic aggregates, a process reminiscent of embryonic mammalian nephron generation.
  • The elaboration that a major factor in the development of fibrosis is cell cycle arrest in the proximal epithelial cell.