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"Mini-kidney" grown from stem cells

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December 30, 2013

The University of Queensland mini-kidney

The University of Queensland mini-kidney

Instead of having to wait for one of the limited number of available donor kidneys, patients in need of a transplant may eventually be able to have a new kidney custom-grown for them. That possibility recently took one step closer to reality, as scientists at Australia's University of Queensland successfully grew a "mini-kidney" from stem cells.

The researchers created a proprietary new protocol, that prompts stem cells in a petri dish to self-organize into a miniature kidney. "During self-organization, different types of cells arrange themselves with respect to each other to create the complex structures that exist within an organ, in this case, the kidney," says project leader Prof. Melissa Little.

Stem cells, as many readers will already know, are essentially "blank slate" cells that are able to become any of a wide variety of specialized cells. Previous studies have coaxed them into becoming lung, retina and brain cells, among other types.

Little points out that while the work is indeed promising, human trials with full-size lab-grown kidneys are not likely to be happening anytime soon. In the meantime, however, the mini-kidneys could be used to test drug candidates without exposing human test subjects to harmful side effects.

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Nature Cell Biology.

Earlier this year, scientists at the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Regenerative Medicine created a functioning rat kidney. In their case, however, they did so by stripping the cells from an existing kidney, then "reseeding" the resulting collagen scaffold with endothelial cells.

Additionally, a team from Italy’s Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research has created kidney-like “organoids” that perform the same functions as kidneys when implanted in rats.

Source: University of Queensland

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
3 Comments

I think a lot of money needs to be funded into growing thyroids in case the fukushima incident happens to be a lot worse than we think. Already, there are over 70 sailors on the USS Regan that have filed a lawsuit for damages due to continuous exposure of low level radiation.

GRich
30th December, 2013 @ 03:04 pm PST

"patients in need of a transplant may eventually be able to have a new kidney custom-grown for them."

the operative word there is eventually.

Tom Phoghat Sobieski
31st December, 2013 @ 02:37 am PST

The article is silent on the type of stem cells employed. Judging from the statement about "custom-grown" kidneys, it is to be assumed that these would be adult stem cells taken from the patient and therefore not subject to rejection as would be the case with embryonic stem cells. For the record, so far there are well over 80 effective adult stem cell therapies in use, including things like heart muscle replacement after infarction; but not a single effective therapy developed using embryonic stem cells.

Takis
31st December, 2013 @ 08:40 am PST
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