Functioning human kidney tissue produced from stem cells.

Scientists have successfully produced human kidney tissue within a living organism which is able to produce urine. The study led by Professors Sue Kimber and Adrian Woolf from The University of Manchester, signifies a significant milestone in the development of treatment for kidney disease.
This research is published in the journal Stem Cell Reports.

Kidney glomeruli  constituent microscopic parts of the organ-were generated from human embryonic stem cells grown in plastic laboratory culture dishes. They were combined with a gel like substance, which acted as natural connective tissue  and then injected under the skin of mice. After three months, an examination of the tissue revealed that nephrons had formed. The new structures contained most of the constituent parts present in human nephrons including proximal tubules, distal tubules, Bowman’s capsule and Loop of Henle. Tiny human blood vessels known as capillaries- had developed inside the mice which nourished the new kidney structures. Although these kidney produced functioning tissue there are few problems to overcome. These kidney like structures lack a large artery and only small number of nephrons compared to millions that are in human kidneys.

To test the functionality of the new structures, the team used Dextran a fluorescent protein which stains the urine-like substance produced when nephrons filter the blood, called glomerular filtrate. The Dextran was tracked and detected in the new structures’ tubules, demonstrating that filtrate was indeed being produced and excreted as urine.

Professor Woolf, who is also Consultant in Paediatric Nephrology at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Worldwide, two million people are being treated with dialysis or transplantation for kidney failure, and sadly another two million die each year, unable to access these treatments. To these people this research brings hope.

Citation: Bantounas, Ioannis, Parisa Ranjzad, Faris Tengku, Edina Silajdžić, Duncan Forster, Marie-Claude Asselin, Philip Lewis, Rachel Lennon, Antonius Plagge, Qi Wang, Adrian S. Woolf, and Susan J. Kimber. “Generation of Functioning Nephrons by Implanting Human Pluripotent Stem Cell-Derived Kidney Progenitors.” Stem Cell Reports, 2018.


Funding: Medical Research Council, Kidney Research UK, The University of Manchester’s School of Biological Sciences, Manchester Regenerative Medicine Network (MaRM), and Kidneys for life

Adapted from press release by University of Manchester.

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