Mini-kidneys grown from stem cells for renal disease study

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Mini-kidneys grown from stem cells for renal disease study

Nearly 12 million people all over the world are afflicted with polycystic kidney disease. Researchers have always faced the challenge of not being able to gauge and study the progression of this disease in a laboratory setting. However, with the help of stem cells, it’s been possible for researchers to create mini-kidney organoids to study renal disease that contain a realistic micro-anatomy.  

In the study, researchers from University of Washington Health Sciences (UW Medicine) manipulated the organoids to track early stages of polycystic kidney disease progression. Certain physical components in the environment of the organoids were substituted to increase or decrease the cyst formation.      

The study was led by Benjamin Freedman, assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Nephrology at the UW School of Medicine. His team at the Kidney Research Institute and several other scientists from the United States and Canada were involved in the study. Of the study, Freedman said, “Beforehand, we had shown that these organoids could form PKD-like cysts, but what's new here is that we've used the model to understand something fundamental about that disease." He stressed on the importance on being able to understand the disease thoroughly in order to be able to cure it. According to him, this research urged the team to look at the outside environment of the kidney as the key to curing the disease. Nelly Cruz from the Freedman lab who is also the lead author of the paper said, "We've discovered that polycystin proteins, which are causing the disease, are sensitive to their micro-environment. Therefore, if we can change the way they interact or what they are experiencing on the outside of the cell, we might actually be able to change the course of the disease."

Although many more tests and studies need to be conducted, this is a huge step toward developing effective therapies for polycystic kidney disease.    


Nelly M. Cruz
Organoid cystogenesis reveals a critical role of microenvironment in human polycystic kidney disease
Nature Materials, DOI: 10.1038/nmat4994
Image courtesy: Pexels

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Published on: Oct 03, 2017


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