Investigators involved with the Kidney Precision Medicine Project (KPMP) have created the most comprehensive atlas of human kidney tissue to date, according to a recently published paper in Nature. The atlas will allow investigators to compare healthy kidney cells to injured cells to understand the factors that contribute to recovery or kidney disease progression, including kidney failure.

“Defining the underlying molecular diversity at a single-cell level is key to understanding progression of acute kidney injury (AKI) to chronic kidney disease (CKD), kidney failure, heart disease or death—issues that remain a global concern,” Sanjay Jain, MD, PhD, of the Washington University School of Medicine in Saint Louis, Missouri, and colleagues wrote. The KPMP project is supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).

There is growing consensus that kidney disease has a variety of root causes and disease pathways leading to subgroups of CKD and AKI. Using healthy reference kidneys from 45 donors and diseased kidneys from 48 donors, the researchers identified 51 main cell types in the kidney, including rare and novel cell populations. They detailed transcriptomic profiles, regulatory factors and spatial localizations from the cortex to the papillary tip. They also defined 28 cellular states across nephron segments and interstitium that were altered in AKI, encompassing cycling, successful or maladaptive repair, transitioning, and degenerative states. In addition, they created interactive 3D models of cells and microenvironment relationships. Publicly available data can be accessed at

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“KPMP brings together the best of new technology, patient engagement, and partnership, and represents an evolution in the way we think about kidney disease,” NIDDK Director Griffin P. Rodgers, MD, stated in a NIDDK news release. “We’re confident the Kidney Tissue Atlas will help us discover new ways to get the right kidney disease treatment to the right patient at the right time.”


Lake BB, Menon R, Winfree S, et al. An atlas of healthy and injured cell states and niches in the human kidney. Nature. Published online July 19, 2023. doi:10.1038/s41586-023-05769-3

New atlas of human kidney cells to help unlock kidney disease research. News release. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; July 19, 2023.