Researchers from Indiana University have made important discoveries about PKD cyst formation using virtual tissue technology. Building a virtual nephron, the scientists used computer simulation to show that PKD gene mutations caused errors in cell adhesion. When cells failed to stick together, they formed mushroom-shaped cysts. When cells stuck together, but failed to stop growing when coming into contact with other cells, they grew like plaque along the nephron wall, then collapsed into “disorganized” cyst shapes. The accuracy of these computer models was confirmed using human cells in the lab. The discovery of two types of cysts has only been noted once before decades ago during a kidney dissection. Further computer simulations could uncover the molecular signaling behind both types of cysts, pointing to a potential drug target for polycystic kidney disease.
IU Study: Virtual Tissue Technology Reveals New Drug Target in Polycystic Kidney Disease, Indiana University, June 27, 2016