Chronic kidney disease represents a major health problem worldwide. Although the kidney has the ability to repopulate structures that have sustained some degree of injury, the mechanisms underlying its regenerative capacity have been unclear. Recent evidence now supports the existence of a renal progenitor system able to replace podocytes and tubular cells, localized within the urinary pole of Bowman's capsule and along the tubule. Altered growth or differentiation of renal progenitors has been reported in several renal disorders including diabetic nephropathy. Pharmacological modulation of renal progenitor growth or differentiation can enhance kidney regeneration, suggesting that treatments aimed at reversing kidney injury are possible. Renal progenitors may represent a novel target in diabetic nephropathy and other kidney disorders.
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