Queensland Researchers Grow Tiny Kidneys in Lab


University of Queensland (UQ) researchers have given new hope to patients with renal diseases by growing a tiny kidney using stem cells in the laboratory. This significant breakthrough can now pave way for new improved treatments for renal disease and lessen the demand for donor organs.

 "One in three Australians is at risk of developing chronic kidney disease and the only therapies currently available are kidney transplant and dialysis," Professor Melissa Little from UQ's Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) said in a statement. "Only one in four patients will receive a donated organ, and dialysis is an ongoing and restrictive treatment regime.

The team worked out a system through which stem cells formed all the necessary cell types to 'self-organise' into a tiny kidney.

"During self-organisation, 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," Little said. "The fact that such stem cell populations can undergo self-organisation in the laboratory bodes well for the future of tissue bioengineering to replace damaged and diseased organs and tissues."

Apart from treating renal diseases and solving transplantation problems, Little said that lab-produced kidneys can also help medical researchers identify drugs harmful to the organs. This will save clinical trial costs and be more effective.

 "The work by the IMB research team is an important milestone in developing improved treatments for chronic kidney disease and will ensure those with the condition can continue to live fulfilling and productive lives," Queensland Minister for Science and Innovation, Ian Walker, said.

The research has been published in the scientific journal Nature Cell Biology.

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