Over the past several decades, the zebrafish has become one of the major vertebrate model organisms used in biomedical research. In this arena, the zebrafish has emerged as an applicable system for the study of kidney diseases and renal regeneration. The relevance of the zebrafish model for nephrology research has been increasingly appreciated as the understanding of zebrafish kidney structure, ontogeny, and the response to damage has steadily expanded. Recent studies have documented the amazing regenerative characteristics of the zebrafish kidney, which include the ability to replace epithelial populations after acute injury and to grow new renal functional units, termed nephrons. Here we discuss how nephron composition is conserved between zebrafish and mammals, and highlight how recent findings from zebrafish studies utilizing transgenic technologies and chemical genetics can complement traditional murine approaches in the effort to dissect how the kidney responds to acute damage and identify therapeutics that enhance human renal regeneration.
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