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Mini-kidneys for chronic kidney disease research

June 26, 2018

A team of Australian and Dutch researchers have successfully built a mini-kidney from stem cells and transplanted it into a mouse where it has matured into tissue with blood vessels, which is capable of filtering blood.


Professor Melissa Little

The findings—recently published in the journal Stem Cell Reports—represent a step further on the long road towards making functioning tissue for the treatment of  chronic kidney disease.

“The fact that we can make kidney tissue from human stem cells and have this develop into mature kidney tissue after transplantation is a very promising step towards developing this further for treatment,” says Melissa Little from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.

Untreated, chronic kidney disease leads to kidney failure, and is often called a ‘silent killer’. One in 10 Australians are expected to show signs of the condition by 2020, but only 25 per cent of patients will receive a kidney transplant.

Melissa and her colleagues have pioneered kidney ‘organoid’ research. Not only have they developed ways to coax stem cells into developing into the different types of kidney cells, they’ve also succeeded in getting the cells to self-organise into the structures and systems needed to function.

These functioning mini-kidneys are useful in the lab for studying kidney function, kidney diseases, and testing therapies.

It’s important research, given that chronic kidney disease cases are rising in number by six per cent per annum, and the treatment options—dialysis and/or a kidney transplant—are a heavy burden.

Read more:

  • SBS News: Stem cell kidney gives hope to sufferers
  • Herald Sun: Lab-grown kidneys a step closer after Melbourne-Dutch researchers’ breakthrough [subscriber only]
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