In September, 2001, the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive, and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) convened a working group of its National Advisory Council to develop a strategic plan for Stem Cells and Developmental Biology. The working group made several recommendations, with the overall goals of providing new strategies for repairing or replacing damaged organs and generating new insights into pathologic processes underlying developmental defects and disease. Similar goals were also voiced by the Bladder Research Progress Review Group, convened by NIDDK in 2002, which emphasized the need for a more thorough understanding of organogenesis so that tissue degeneration and congenital malformations might be prevented and treated.
A fundamental contribution to these goals is a solid understanding of how organs develop in the embryo. It is from such an understanding that experimentally manipulated development or regeneration can be evaluated. If cell therapies are to be developed to replace or repair damaged tissue, we must know the catalog of cell types for each organ, the genes that mark these cells as well as those that are required for their function, the regulatory factors that induce or maintain the various cell types, and the developmental and anatomic relationships of each cell type to its neighbor. For certain tissues, for example the hematopoietic lineages, a substantial literature exists which provides this fundamental knowledge. However, for the kidney and the genitourinary (GU) tract, markers are lacking for several physiologically or anatomically defined cell types, the developmental processes that establish functional domains is not described, and the genesis of organ anatomy at the molecular/cellular level is not understood. This lack of fundamental description of these organs is a major obstacle to the pursuit of stem cell research and the design of novel therapies: without knowledge of the cell types within an organ, it is impossible to determine whether putative therapies are effective at regenerating them or restoring their functionality.
For these reasons, the NIDDK asked a panel of advisors in January, 2003, to articulate the needs for fundamental description of the developing kidney and GU tract. The panel recommended that the following three objectives be combined to form the GUDMAP.
- High throughput in situ hybridization analyses to define the expression pattern of genes expressed in the developing kidney and GU tract
- High resolution gene expression analyses to define gene expression during developmental time, the overlap in gene expression patterns, and the correlation between boundaries of gene expression and boundaries of anatomic or functional domains
- Development of a database to house and annotate the above data and to provide rapid access of this data to the entire research community
Microarray analyses and the generation of murine strains with genetic markers are also goals of GUDMAP which serve to bolster the overall aim of defining molecular and cellular anatomy through developmental time.
NIDDK has partnered with the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) to fund the GUDMAP consortium to accomplish these objectives. The data and tools developed through this group are expected to be a valuable resource for the research community.