Happy New Year!
So what can we expect or hope for in 2016?
Since there were already several NPC culture methods discussed at the IWDN in Utah, it is likely we will see more of this published in the coming year (preferably with protocols as detailed as in the Oxburgh lab paper). Important things I would be looking for are cells that can give rise to all nephron cell types, including podocytes and other proximal fates. As we showed that β-catenin signalling is incompatible with proximal patterning, maybe further titration of the CHIR concentration might help here. Also, something a bit cheaper would be a treat for my lab budgets… Finally, I have no doubt CRISPR/Cas9 will work in these cells as it does in every other cell type, but would be great to see this published sooner rather than later.
No doubt there will also be a lot more on directed differentiation of ES/iPS cells. I would love to see published data on protocols for differentiation of mouse ES cells, this would allow use of all those mutants and, maybe even more important, reporter lines that have been made over the years. It will also allow the use of many of the standard kidney failure models to see if these differentiated cells can repair kidneys. Obviously, human-compatible systems are the final goal but I don’t think we can do without mice yet… What else with these cells? More toxicological screening data? Developmental phenotypes?
I would also be very interested to see data on the role of specific miRNAs in the developing kidney. I think by now Dicer and/or Drosha have been knocked out in every developing kidney compartment, always with severe phenotypes, and the identification last year of mutations in about every miRNA processor gene in Wilms’ tumours also confirms the important of this in the developing kidney. Would be really interesting to see if specific miRNAs can be coupled to specific functions.
And finally some day dreaming… definitively influenced by all the media attention of Tim Peak, the first UK astronaut in 25 years currently in the International Space Station… How would an embryonic kidney develop in a drop of medium in micro-gravity? Will they do anything or simply drop (well… more like float) dead for lack or air-liquid interface? Or would they even do better and form a kidney shape? Would patterning be normal? The cold storage method developed by Jamie Davies should easily get samples to the ISS fast enough. In my lab the record for getting half embryos send to us this way was 6 days in transit (Fedex doesn’t know where Edinburgh is), and the trip to the ISS is more like 6 hours. And the ISS has, or soon will have, a pretty fancy new culture system. Who will fund this?