How the kidney develops

Cosmos Magazine


Cosmos is a quarterly science magazine. We aim to inspire curiosity in ‘The Science of Everything’ and make the world of science accessible to everyone.

By Cosmos

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh have captured incredible time-lapse images of mouse kidneys growing in a lab. The time-lapse follows the development of the kidney from a group of cells into a complex organ.

The research team identified an important molecule called beta-catenin that instructs cells to form specialised structures within the kidney. These structures, called nephrons, are responsible for filtering waste products from the blood to generate urine.

A wide range of health issues may occur if nephrons do not work correctly, ranging from abnormal water and salt loss, to extremely high blood pressure.

The findings of this study will help scientists to grow nephrons in the lab more easily and efficiently, that can then be used to study how kidneys function.

Dr Nils Lindstrom, of the University of Edinburgh, said: “By using time lapse imaging, we can get detailed information about the signals that control how kidneys form at different time-points in development. This means that we can use fewer animals and obtain much more information than normal imaging techniques.”

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