The blog of Xeno, a slightly mad scientist
A kidney grown in a dish as seen under the microscope – link
Scientists in Australia have grown the world’s first kidney from stem cells – a tiny organ which could eventually help to reduce the wait for transplants.
The breakthrough, published in the journal Nature Cell Biology, followed years of research and involved the transformation of human skin cells into an organoid – a functioning “mini-kidney” with a width of only a few millimetres.
Scientists are hoping to increase the size of future kidneys and believe the resulting organs will boost research and allow cheaper, faster testing of drugs. Within the next three to five years, the artificial organs could be used to allow doctors to repair damaged kidneys within the body, rather than letting diseases develop before proceeding with a transplant.
“This is the first time anybody has managed to direct stem cells into the functional units of a kidney,” Professor Brandon Wainwright, from the University of Queensland, told The Telegraph.
“It is an amazing process – it is like a Lego building that puts itself together.”
The engineered kidney was developed by a team of Australian scientists led by the University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience.
Professor Wainwright said the process for developing the kidney was “like a scientific approach to cooking”. The scientists methodically examined which genes were switched on and off during kidney development and then manipulated the skin cells into embryonic stem cells which could “self-organise” and form complex human structures.
“The [researchers] spent years looking at what happens if you turn this gene off and this one on,” he said. “You can eventually coax these stem cells through a journey – they [the cells] go through various stages and then think about being a kidney cell and eventually pop together to form a little piece of kidney.”
The research could eventually help address the demand for transplant organs and improve medical testing of new drugs for patients with kidney disease.
Human kidneys are particularly susceptible to damage during trials, which makes finding effective medicines costly and time-consuming.
Professor Melissa Little, from the University of Queensland, said scientists could try to grow full-grown kidneys for transplants or even “clusters of mini kidneys” that could be transplanted to boost patients’ renal functions. But she told The Australian she believed such developments were still more than a decade away.
Awesome! Pour money on them and lets get this thing rolling! We are behind. We need to get to the point where we can replace our organs and have individuals live for hundreds of years. Then the 500-year-olds will care more about taking care of the planet and they can help us move on to become a Type II civilization. Hearts, lungs, brains, livers, inner ears, new teeth, eyeballs .. lets go to it, people!