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Expert Opin Ther Targets. 2012 Feb;16(2):157-65. doi: 10.1517/14728222.2012.661417.

CD133+ cells as a therapeutic target for kidney diseases.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Research Center for Experimental Medicine, University of Torino, Italy.



The availability of antibodies recognizing the glycosylation-dependent expression of AC133 epitope of CD133 allowed the identification of stem cells in different human tissues. In the kidney, CD133 has been identified as a marker of progenitor cells within the nephron, both in the cortex and in the inner medulla, showing features of non-differentiated mesenchymal progenitors. In addition, CD133 may be considered a marker of renal repair, as the hypoxic microenvironment occurring after injury may favor the acquirement of CD133 progenitor properties by cells of the nephron.


Areas covered in this review include CD133 expression that, in renal pathology, has been related to excessive proliferation and/or reduced differentiation of renal progenitors, which occurs in polycystic kidney disease and glomerular diseases. Also included are data from literature, which by contrast, indicate CD133 cannot be considered a promising marker for renal cancer stem cells.


CD133 could be of interest as a possible therapeutic target for nonmalignant renal pathology. Selective targeting of CD133 may allow pharmacological approaches to control proliferation or induce differentiation of CD133+ cells. In the light of a possible role of CD133 in the regulation of the anaerobic glycolytic metabolism, CD133 modulation could be of therapeutic interest in renal regeneration or diseases. Successful exploitation of CD133 will nevertheless require a better understanding of its molecular function.

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