In the past decade, podocyte research has been greatly aided by the development of powerful new molecular, cellular and animal tools, leading to elucidation of an increasing number of proteins involved in podocyte function and identification of mutated genes in hereditary glomerulopathies. Accumulating evidence indicates that podocyte disorders may not only underlie these hereditary glomerulopathies but also play crucial role in a broad spectrum of acquired glomerular diseases. Genetic susceptibility, environmental influence and systemic responses are all involved in the mediation of the pathogenesis of podocytopathies. Injured podocytes may predisopose to further injury of other podocytes and other adjacent/distant renal cells in a vicious cycle, leading to inexorable progression of glomerular injury. The classic view is that podocytes have a limited ability to proliferate in the normal mature kidney. However, recent research in rodents has provided suggestive evidence for podocyte regeneration resulting from differentiation of progenitor cells within Bowman's capsule.
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