Concepts for a Therapeutic Prolongation of Nephrogenesis in Preterm and Low-Birth-Weight Babies Must Correspond to Structural-Functional Properties in the Nephrogenic Zone

Mol Cell Pediatr. 2017 Dec 7;4(1):12. doi: 10.1186/s40348-017-0078-6.


Numerous investigations are dealing with anlage of the mammalian kidney and primary development of nephrons. However, only few information is available about the last steps in kidney development leading at birth to a downregulation of morphogen activity in the nephrogenic zone and to a loss of stem cell niches aligned beyond the organ capsule. Surprisingly, these natural changes in the developmental program display similarities to processes occurring in the kidneys of preterm and low-birth-weight babies. Although those babies are born at a time with a principally intact nephrogenic zone and active niches, a high proportion of them suffers on impairment of nephrogenesis resulting in oligonephropathy, formation of atypical glomeruli, and immaturity of parenchyma. The setting points out that up to date not identified noxae in the nephrogenic zone hamper primary steps of parenchyma development. In this situation, a possible therapeutic aim is to prolong nephrogenesis by medications. However, actual data provide information that administration of drugs is problematic due to an unexpectedly complex microanatomy of the nephrogenic zone, in niches so far not considered textured extracellular matrix and peculiar contacts between mesenchymal cell projections and epithelial stem cells via tunneling nanotubes. Thus, it remains to be figured out whether disturbance of morphogen signaling altered synthesis of extracellular matrix, disturbed cell-to-cell contacts, or modified interstitial fluid impair nephrogenic activity. Due to most unanswered questions, search for eligible drugs prolonging nephrogenesis and their reliable administration is a special challenge for the future.

Publication types

  • Review