Kidney Program

Program Leader: Iain Drummond, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Associate Biologist, Renal Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital

HSCI researchers are dedicated to finding new treatments for patients with kidney disease.

Kidneys fail because they cannot form new nephrons quickly enough. That’s why our Kidney Program is focusing on these these key units which control kidney function.

To understand the biology of nephrons, inside and out, our research centers on questions such as:

  • What happens at the earliest stages, when nephrons arise from stem cells?
  • How do healthy nephrons repair themselves? How do they proliferate?
  • How, why, and when do nephrons become diseased?

To find answers, HSCI researchers use stem cells derived from patients (iPS cells), gene-editing tools, and zebrafish models of kidney disease.

What we have achieved so far

In doing so, they have discovered:

  • How kidney tubule cells arise from stem cells
  • How the cells that normally replace kidney cells after injury are derived from the epithelium itself
  • How stem cell-based kidney regeneration is promoted in zebrafish when a program of developmental growth factors is re-activated
  • How to grow and use kidney organoids
  • That in adult mammals, two different cell types coalesce to form the starting material for new nephrons.

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