Researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital have made several important discoveries about the gene Lin28 and its link to Wilms tumor, a pediatric renal cancer marked by growths that appear similar to immature kidneys. Experts believe the tumors are caused by unchecked kidney development, which would normally be complete before birth. Lin28 is important to the development and repair of organs and tissues and is active in early development of the kidneys. The scientists found high levels of Lin28 gene activity in nearly one-third of patient tumors and a strong link between expression of Lin28 and high-risk “blastemal” tumors, which are resistant to initial chemotherapy and can’t be identified before treatment.
The scientists hope Lin28 could become a biomarker for blastemal tumors. It may also be a promising target for treatment. Over-expression of Lin28 in a mouse model resulted in Wilms tumor. The researchers succeeded in reversing the effects of Lin28 by activating a tumor-suppressor gene called Let-7.
Given the study results and Lin28’s role in early kidney development, the scientists believe it could hold the key to regeneration of damaged kidneys. In an experiment with newborn mice, controlled expression of Lin28 led to an increase in the number of nephrons in the kidneys.
Gene Linked to Pediatric Kidney Cancer Suggests New Strategies for Kidney Regeneration, ScienceDaily, April 13, 2014