Horseradish enzyme aids in kidney research

Three is always better than two when inducing tissue to become part of a kidney, and horseradish doesn’t hurt either.

A recently developed technique will now allow researchers to simultaneously observe three genes instead of two in the embryos, body tissues or cells of animals such as birds.

Researchers hope that the new technique will aid research that will eventually discover a way to turn stem cells into kidney tissue to treat damaged kidneys.

“We want to know what controls development so we can know what went wrong when organ disfunction or disease occurs,” said Teri Jo Mauch, an associate professor of pediatrics.

Being able to show three genes simultaneously was already possible in invertebrate animals, but the technique of doing it in higher animals was discovered by Mauch and her research team.

Their findings were published in this month’s issue of Developmental Dynamics.

Being able to follow three genes instead of just two is valuable because it is sometimes necessary to watch how three different types of cells interact to create tissue, Mauch said.

Watching only two doesn’t allow researchers to see the whole picture of how genes tell cells to become kidney tissue.

By understanding the whole picture, researchers hope to find a way to tell different tissues to become part of a kidney. If that’s done, scientists will be much closer to being able to engineer tissue for the treatment of kidney diseases, Mauch said.

The genes are made visible by dying them different colors with a horseradish enzyme and special chemicals.

By using a special microscope, researchers can see if genes overlap. If they do, the colors will blend to create new hues, allowing scientists to study them alongside pre-existing genes.

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