A Stem Cell-Based Strategy for Modeling Human Kidney Disease and Discovering Novel Therapeutics

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2022

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Abstract

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a degenerative disorder that affects millions of people worldwide and there are no targeted therapeutics. Given the global burden and increasing prevalence of CKD, the kidneys represent an attractive target for regenerative medicine. The most severe forms of CKD involve irreversible damage to kidney glomerular podocytes - the specialized epithelial cells that encase glomerular capillaries and regulate the removal of toxins and waste from blood. Therefore, the goal of this research proposal was to develop a novel strategy to protect or promote repair of injured human kidney tissues with an initial focus on glomerular podocytes. To achieve this goal, we leveraged advances in the directed differentiation of stem cells and in vitro disease modeling techniques to develop translationally relevant human models of podocyte injury. We used these models to identify potential biomarkers of early onset podocyte dysfunction, endogenous therapeutic targets, and reno-protective drug candidates, with a particular emphasis on studying pathways implicated in biomechanical signaling. Our studies revealed that the mechanosensitive proteins YAP, CTGF, and Cyr61 may be viable endogenous therapeutic targets, while CTGF and Cyr61 expression could serve as biomarkers of podocyte mechanical integrity and cell health. Additionally, our preliminary high-throughput drug screens have identified promising podocyte-protective drug candidates, which will be the subject of future studies.

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Burt, Morgan Alexandra (2022). A Stem Cell-Based Strategy for Modeling Human Kidney Disease and Discovering Novel Therapeutics. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/27578.

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