Harvard University - Department of Molecular & Cellular Biology

UNRAVELING OUR PLUMBING

by Andrew McMahon

August 2nd, 2005


Co-authors Joo-Seop Park and Andy McMahon
(three authors not pictured)
Water and salt balance in our bodies and removal of toxic wastes is carried out by a high powered filtration system, the kidney. The entire volume of blood in our bodies is filtered through the kidneys many times every hour. This work is carried out by a battery, 500,000 in us, of specialized tubular units called nephrons.

Professor Andy McMahon's group has made some striking new insights into understanding the fundamental developmental processes that establish the nephron precursors. In a recent paper published in Developmental Cell they show that naïve mesenchyme cells in the fetal kidney are induced by a member of the Wnt family of signals to convert to a primitive tubular structure, the renal vesicle, a structure that later gives rise to the main tubular epithelial body of each nephron. Additional studies in other regions that give rise to components of the reproductive system show that this same signal, Wnt9b, is at work in controlling the epithelial organization of these critical tissues as well.

Read article in Developmental Cell