DNA gene chips and novel software used to describe kidney development

The step-by-step development of a mammalian kidney, from its early beginnings in the embryo to its adult role as a vital filtration system, has been described by UCSD School of Medicine researchers using DNA gene-chip technology and novel software.

In research reported in the May 1, 2001 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), researchers in the lab of Sanjay Nigam, M.D., professor of pediatrics and medicine, studied rat kidneys to find the specific genes that become active, then turn off, during kidney development. Nigam holds the Nancy Kaehr Endowed Chair in Pediatric Research.

According to Nigam, "roughly a third of all chronic kidney disease in children is related to a disorder of kidney development. This study is hopefully the first of a series in which we aim to identify specific subsets of genes necessary for different processes, which, together, lead to formation of the kidney."

"In essence," he adds, "the questions of how to engineer a kidney, how it regenerates and how it develops in the embryo are variations of the same broader question: how do you make a kidney?"

The study's lead author, nephrologist and assistant professor of medicine Robert Stuart, M.D., agrees, noting that "the ultimate goal of kidney research is to one day grow replacement kidneys in the lab. Until then, we're trying to understand all that is going on in the kidney as it develops."

"Although scientists have investigated specific target genes and diseases, this is the first really broad description of gene expression during organ development," Stuart says.

"Although it is commonly said that the huge volume of data makes gene expression analysis difficult, it really is the amazing complexity of tracking perhaps 30,000 variables which is the hard part."

That data comes from the high-tech use of gene chips, also called DNA microarrays, which permit scientists to track the expression - the turnin

Contact: Sue Pondrom
University of California - San Diego

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