We’re all wasteful. Waste products ooze out from almost every busy cell in our bodies. And eventually this unwanted cargo needs to be syphoned off and disposed of. Our kidneys filter the rubbish from the recyclable, and the first step in the process is carried out by a tuft of blood vessels called the glomerulus. Lining these vessels are tiny filter cells called podocytes. But these are often a weak point exploited by kidney diseases, and can be harmed by the very drugs designed to stave off further illness. To study kidney function, researchers wanted to grow glomerulus structures on an artificial chip, but struggled to reliably generate the crucial podocytes. But they’ve now overcome this barrier, by steering stem cells to develop into podocytes, pictured here in purple on an artificial surface. Now they can begin to filter out the most promising new therapies for kidney disease.
Written by Anthony Lewis
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