In a multi-institution collaboration led by Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and the Harvard Medical School, scientists said their findings might also lead to new therapies for repairing injuries in several other organ systems.
They said the study might have significant medical ramifications because there are currently no effective treatments for acute kidney injury. The study's senior co-authors -- Richard Lang, a Cincinnati researcher, and Dr. Jeremy Duffield, a scientist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, said acute kidney injury is a significant cause of kidney disease, cardiovascular complications and early death.
The researchers said the newly discovered molecular repair pathway was found in laboratory mice and involves white blood cells called macrophages that respond to tissue injury by producing a protein called Wnt7b, which has previously been identified with the formation of embryonic kidney tissues. In their study the scientists found the protein helped initiate tissue repair and regeneration in injured kidneys.
"Our findings suggest that by migrating to the injured kidney and producing Wnt7b, macrophages are re-establishing an early molecular program for organ development that also is beneficial to tissue repair," Lang said.
The study is detailed in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.