University of Southern California

Building a miniature kidney in a dish

Genetic modification of the MAFB gene by the Chang Stem Cell Engineering Facility enables the visualization of living podocytes (green) in developing human kidney organoids. (Image courtesy of Tracy Tran, a graduate student in the McMahon laboratory)

Genome editing manager Chang Tong and his team generated several embryonic stem cell (ESC) lines with a fluorescent marker inserted into the genome to indicate genes (Six2, Cited1, MafB2a) that are expressed within key cell types of the kidney.

With these new tools, USC Stem Cell researcher Andy McMahon and his team of scientists are using these lines to identify the best ways to differentiate these ESCs into kidney structures, isolating the kidney cells and comparing the properties of manufactured cells with their normal counterparts, and generating disease models by engineering disease generating mutations into these kidney organoid cultures.

By manufacturing kidney cells and modeling disease, these studies provide avenues to assist or restore renal function and to prevent or suppress kidney disease.