Winding back the clock with kidney stem cells

Stem cell research courts both controversy and support in the community- depending on your viewpoint.

Now, for the first time, scientists at Monash University's Immunology and Stem Cell Laboratories (MISCL) have shown that they can make human stem cells from healthy adult kidneys without working on , circumventing ethical concerns around this research.

This achievement will allow group leader Associate Professor Sharon Ricardo and her team to model genetic kidney diseases in the laboratory and tease out the mechanisms that control these difficult-to-treat disorders.

"We're taking human kidney cells and winding back the clock to make their early precursors," Associate Professor Ricardo said.

For the challenging project, which was published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, the Monash researchers started with healthy adult kidney cells, which they reprogrammed back to an embryonic-like state, then compared these kidney stem cells with off-the-shelf , and showed that both could form different types, with their preserved.

"These kidney cells had their slate wiped clean. Now that gives us the opportunity to change that kidney precursor into all kidney cell types," Dr Ricardo said.

In collaboration with Professor Peter Kerr from Monash Medical Centre, the research team has now generated four stem cell lines from patients with polycystic and Alport syndrome, two leading genetic kidney disorders.

"As these stem cells can divide indefinitely in a culture dish, we can make a limitless source of patient-specific stem cells, make kidney cysts and screen drugs on those cells," Professor Kerr said.

"Our ultimate goal is to make off-the-shelf mature kidney cells that patients can use for drug testing and disease modelling."

Associate Professor Ricardo, who is approaching pharmaceutical companies to screen drugs on the kidney stem cells, believes that this personalised medicine approach will produce safer medicines in the future.

But in the short-term, the Monash researcher plans to continue work on the kidney stem cells to study how environmental factors influence how kidney cells behave, tests drugs for their ability to reduce kidney cyst formation and cell proliferation, and better understand how genetic kidney disorders develop in the first place.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Italians report stem-cell advances

Sep 06, 2006

Italian scientists have reportedly made important advances in stem-cell research, specifically for kidney and liver disease.

Key gene in kidney development found

Oct 10, 2006

U.S. scientists in Memphis, Tenn., say they've found that a gene called Six2 plays a critical role in the development of human kidneys.

Stem cells offer new hope for kidney disease patients

Oct 15, 2009

Several cell-based therapy approaches could provide new treatments for patients with Alport syndrome, reports an upcoming paper in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN). "Our study opens ...

Recommended for you

Organovo has 3D-printed liver tissue for drug testing

Nov 20, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—The commercial release of 3D printed liver tissue was announced earlier this week. Organovo is the company behind the release. The product is intended for use for preclinical drug discovery ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.