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A hormone that dilates blood vessels during pregnancy opens an...

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Published on Dec 9, 2011

For something so seemingly inconsequential, primary cilia seemed an unlikely cause for something so devastating. Primary cilia are microscopic hairlike structures that stick out like antennae from virtually every cell in the human body, including the epithelial cells lining the kidneys. These nonmoving primary cilia were thought to be little more than evolutionary leftovers until 2000, when research first linked cilia defects to polycystic kidney disease (PKD), a life-threatening genetic disorder that affects 600,000 Americans, according to the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive, and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and the Polycystic Kidney Disease Foundation. Half of those diagnosed with PKD will progress to end-stage renal disease by age 60.

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