Raphael Kopan, PhD.

Raphael Kopan, PhD

Exposing older nephron progenitors to younger ones appears to keep the older cells productive for a longer time.

A research team led by Raphael Kopan, PhD, exposed older nephron progenitor cells to a younger progenitor cell niche, extending the older cells’ capacity to self-renew. The study involved heterochronic transplantation of young and old progenitor cells and used single cell mRNA analysis to study their behavior.

The researchers published their findings Oct. 12, 2015, in Developmental Cell.

In an interview in Nature Reviews Nephrology, Kopan noted that the findings were unexpected and seemed related to exposure to the younger progenitors. “... we observed an in-between result — some of the old progenitor cells preferentially exited the cap mesenchyme niche, but approximately 30 percent of the cells remained and continued to contribute to nephron production for up to one week.”

Kopan’s team plans to determine the molecular pathways underlying the progenitor cells’ signaling mechanism, which eventually could lead to methods for increasing nephron numbers among premature and low birthweight infants.