Kidney cells produce the hormone EPO, key in treating diseases

An international research group has identified Norn cells as the main producer of erythropoietin (EPO) in the human body, a hormone that stimulates the production of red blood cells. EPO is used to correct anemia in cases of chronic kidney failure, and this discovery, published in the journal Nature, may have significant implications for the treatment of conditions such as anemia, chronic kidney disease, and cancer. Norn cells are named after Norse mythological creatures believed to spin the threads of fate.

This discovery will allow a better understanding of how current treatments work and will lay the foundation for the development of new therapies. More than 10 percent of the population suffers from chronic kidney disease, which often leads to poor EPO production and therefore anemia, which can be fatal in severe cases. Norn cells can be stimulated to produce more EPO, which would improve the number of red blood cells and the quality of life of the patient without having to administer artificial EPO.

The scientific team, made up of researchers from universities in Switzerland, Israel, Germany and Denmark, have been studying this process for 30 years and compare this discovery with that of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas and their impact on diabetes in the 1950s. Unlike insulin and other major protein hormones, EPO is not stored in cells and is only released when there is a corresponding stimulus, but is produced again in response to lack of oxygen and is released from immediate. Production in Norn cells spikes and drops again in the same way, which was the main reason why they were so difficult to identify.