BIU Scientist Identifies Gene Causing Kidney Tumors

An important link between the Lin28 gene and Wilms Tumor has recently been identified by Dr. Achia Urbach, a senior lecturer at BIU’s Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences. Wilms Tumor comes about due to the improper development of the kidney during the fetal stage, and is the most common form of kidney cancer in children. Dr. Urbach conducted this research during his Postdoc at Boston Children’s Hospital right before joining the Bar-Ilan University faculty.

Prof Achia Urbach
Prof. Achia Urbach has estabished an important link between the Lin28 gene and Wilms Tumor.

Urbach and his research associates found that when a gene was overexpressed at later stages of fetal development the development of the kidney is stunted. This causes the kidney tissue to reproduce at a faster rate than normal. The uncontrollable reproduction of fetal cells results in growths similar to Wilms Tumor.

They found that by stopping the expression of the gene after the rapid replication of kidney cells has already started, they could halt the tumor’s continuing growth.

Urbach’s findings open the door to further research in kidney development, such as controlling the expression of Lin28 to rapidly grow new kidney cells or even stop the growth of oncoming kidney tumors.

Promoting Kidney Growth and Regeneration

His research team’s insights into the origins of kidney cancer have implications for promoting kidney growth and regeneration. The functional unit of the kidney, called the nephron, forms exclusively during development. If damaged by kidney disease, the nephron cannot regenerate in an adult. Kidney failure leading to the need for dialysis or kidney transplantation effects millions of patients, greatly taxing the health care system.

The team showed that a brief, controlled pulse of Lin28 expression in their mouse model increased the number of nephrons in newborn mice. Further experimental manipulations of Lin28 could provide a deeper understanding of nephron formation. This could potentially enable the restoration of normal numbers of nephrons or their regeneration in damaged adult kidneys.

To learn more about Bar-Ilan University medical science projects,
contact Howard Charish at or at 212-906-3900.


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