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Making Connections

The role of immune cells called macrophages in kidney development

23 May 2019

Making Connections

Macrophages are cells of the immune system, well known for engulfing and destroying pathogens or damaged cells, in a process called phagocytosis. Yet they also play a more constructive role during development, helping to build sophisticated networks in the kidneys. These organs regulate blood composition and filter out waste from the bloodstream to excrete as urine, thanks to a complex arrangement of carefully-structured minute tubules known as nephrons, closely associating with blood vessels. Pictured in a mouse embryo’s kidney, macrophages (in red) interact with blood vessels (in green) early on in development, helping to refine the position of kidney structures and encouraging connections between blood vessels. When macrophages were experimentally removed from developing kidneys, fewer connections formed. Understanding the role of macrophages may help produce more realistic kidney-mimicking organoids in the laboratory, for study and drug testing, and may even suggest future therapies targeting macrophages to treat kidney disease.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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