The breakthrough: First time scientists have managed to develop human kidney tissue in the lab within a living organism that is capable to produce urine. The researchers from the University of Manchester, used stem cells to create mini-kidneys that were implanted into mice, with tests revealing they were able to filter and excrete waste.
How: During the experiment, Kidney glomeruli, constituent microscopic parts of the organ, were generated from human embryonic stem cells grown in plastic laboratory culture dishes. These were filled with a nutrient broth known as culture medium, which contain molecules to promote kidney development. These were combined with a gel like substance, which acted as natural connective tissue, and then injected as a tiny clump under the skin of mice. After three months, an examination of the tissue revealed that nephrons, the microscopic structural and functional units of the kidney, had formed.
The new structure: According to the researchers, 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.
Uses: The new breakthrough will allow medical scientists to model kidney diseases using the new structures, advancing our understanding of a number of conditions. It will also help in creating working kidneys for transplant, grown from a patient’s own tissue.
Hope: According to an estimate, around 2.6 million receive dialysis or kidney transplantation every year and around 2.2 million kidney patients die every year due to failure to access treatment. The new experiment might bring hope to million patients of kidney worldwide.