Research in the laboratory of Rebecca Wingert, the Loved ones Associate Professor of Adult Stem Cell Research within the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Notre Dame, has confirmed the key role of a certain small chemical in the development of kidney structures in zebrafish, a popular model for human kidneys. The discovery could help move forward understanding to address issues such as birth defects and repair from the kidney after illness or injury.

Using an innovative screen approach that graduate pupil Shahram Jevin Poureetezadi designed, the team exposed zebrafish embryos to small molecules, prostaglandin E2, from a chemical substance library of such molecules known to be active in cellular development generally. The researchers wanted to identify small substances that regulate or modify development. They discovered that triggering or interrupting the prostaglandin pathway has a direct effect on the kidney, meaning that it is essential for normal development.

The discovery is the culmination of six many years of work in the lab, assembling various genes that are essential for making kidney cells. Now that the pieces are being linked and the role of prostaglandin is established, Wingert will convert attention to gaining a deeper molecular and mechanistic knowledge of how the molecule works in kidney development, especially the particular gene targets of the signaling. Prostaglandin E2 regulates the particular formation of blood stem cells and is known to impact the choice between the formation of the liver or pancreas. In line with the new findings, Wingert speculates that prostaglandin E2 might have critical effects on renal stem cells. In the long term, the girl expects to investigate whether the pathway has relevance for kidneys’ regeneration or failure to regenerate.

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