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Accelerating podocyte production

Feb. 1, 2022, 8:00 AM

by Bill Snyder

Podocytes are specialized cells in the kidney with long foot processes that help filter the blood. Abnormalities in podocyte function have been linked to kidney disease. 

Scientists have directed the differentiation of human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) — stem cells derived from skin or other body cells — into podocytes to better understand the genesis and progression of podocyte abnormalities and to find possible drug targets. 

Existing protocols for generating podocytes have variable efficiency and are expensive, however. To overcome these obstacles, Julie Bejoy, PhD, Eddie Qian and Lauren Woodard, PhD, have developed an accelerated, less-expensive protocol for deriving functional, mature podocytes from hiPSCs with about 70% efficiency in 12 days. 

Described last month in the journal STAR Protocols, the protocol recapitulates the natural process of podocyte development, and it could be applied to study diseases that affect podocyte function including diabetic nephropathy, nephrotic syndrome, HIV nephropathy and collapsing glomerulopathy.

The research was supported by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Vanderbilt O’Brien Kidney Center.

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