Watch a kidney branch out like a tree as it forms

By Sandrine Ceurstemont Video: Mouse kidney branches out like a tree as it forms Peek inside this mouse kidney and watch a bunch of cells turn into an organ. Captured by Nils Lindstrom from the University of Edinburgh, UK, this video reveals how cells are instructed to branch out like a tree to form the kidney’s internal plumbing. By analysing time-lapse images, Lindstrom and his team discovered that a protein called beta-catenin manages the organ’s development by ordering cells to form winding tubes called nephrons. These produce urine by filtering waste from blood. In the video, yellow areas show where the protein is most active. The amount of activity seems to determine which part of the structure the cells should form. The researchers found that they could alter which part of the nephron grew where by tweaking the activity of the protein. (Image: Nils Lindstrom, University of Edinburgh) The vivid close-up above gives a static view of two nephrons developing in the lab. Gold and red areas indicate where waste is filtered before urine is collected and carried away for excretion by the blue regions. Identifying the molecular messages that drive the development of nephrons will help researchers grow them in the lab to understand why they sometimes do not function properly. If waste isn’t separated out and eliminated it can lead to health problems such as high blood pressure. Journal reference: eLife, DOI:
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