Unlimited source of human kidney cells: Applications include in vitro toxicology, disease models, regenerative medicine

February 21, 2013

Researchers at the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) have successfully generated human kidney cells from human embryonic stem cells in vitro. Specifically, they produced the renal cells under artificial conditions in the lab without using animals or organs. This has not been possible until now.

According to IBN Executive Director, Professor Jackie Y. Ying, "This discovery has wide-reaching implications for in vitro toxicology, drug screening, and regenerative medicine. In particular, we are interested in applying our technology to develop predictive in vitro drug testing and renal toxicity models as alternatives to animal testing."

IBN Team Leader and Principal Research Scientist Dr Daniele Zink elaborated, "The kidney is a major target organ for drug-induced toxic effects. Therefore, it is important for pharmaceutical companies to find out early in the development phase whether their drugs would cause nephrotoxicity in humans. However, animal models are of limited predictability, and there is currently no regulatory accepted in vitro assay based on renal cells to predict nephrotoxic effects. A major problem is the lack of suitable renal cells, which may now be resolved through our discovery."

At present, human kidney cells are extracted directly from human kidney samples. However, this method is not efficient because such samples are limited, and the extracted cells die after a few cell divisions in the . Also, cells obtained from different samples would display variable features, depending on age, gender, health status and other conditions of the donor. Therefore, cells that have been isolated from human samples are of limited suitability for research and applications in industry and translational medicine, which require large cell numbers.

An alternative approach is to use human renal cell lines that have been rendered immortal, i.e. they can be reproduced indefinitely in the lab. However, such cells may not be used in many applications due to safety issues, and their functional features have usually been changed so profoundly that they may no longer be useful toward predicting cell behavior in the human body.

IBN's technique, on the other hand, enables to differentiate into renal proximal tubular-like cells. This particular kidney cell type plays an important role in kidney disease-related processes and drug clearance. Results showed that the renal proximal tubular-like cells generated by IBN were similar to the renal proximal tubular cells isolated from fresh human kidney samples. For example, they displayed very similar gene and protein expression patterns. Also, since human may grow indefinitely in cell culture, the IBN researchers have discovered a potentially unlimited source of .

"We are currently adapting our approach to use induced pluripotent stem cells as the source," shared Dr Karthikeyan Narayanan, IBN Senior Research Scientist. "We are also planning to modify our protocol in order to generate other renal cell types from ."

The IBN researchers have tested the renal they generated in in vitro nephrotoxicology models developed by the Institute, and have obtained very promising test results. They welcome industry partners to collaborate with IBN on commercializing this technology.

Explore further: Winding back the clock with kidney stem cells

Related Stories

Renal cancer cells target of new bark-derived drug

November 5, 2012

(Medical Xpress)—Associate Professor Joe W. Ramos, PhD, a cancer biologist at the University of Hawai'i Cancer Center in collaboration with Assistant Professor William Chain, PhD, from the UH Mānoa's Chemistry Department ...

Recommended for you

We've all got a blind spot, but it can be shrunk

August 31, 2015

You've probably never noticed, but the human eye includes an unavoidable blind spot. That's because the optic nerve that sends visual signals to the brain must pass through the retina, which creates a hole in that light-sensitive ...

Biologists identify mechanisms of embryonic wound repair

August 31, 2015

It's like something out of a science-fiction movie - time-lapse photography showing how wounds in embryos of fruit flies heal themselves. The images are not only real; they shed light on ways to improve wound recovery in ...

New 'Tissue Velcro' could help repair damaged hearts

August 28, 2015

Engineers at the University of Toronto just made assembling functional heart tissue as easy as fastening your shoes. The team has created a biocompatible scaffold that allows sheets of beating heart cells to snap together ...

Fertilization discovery: Do sperm wield tiny harpoons?

August 26, 2015

Could the sperm harpoon the egg to facilitate fertilization? That's the intriguing possibility raised by the University of Virginia School of Medicine's discovery that a protein within the head of the sperm forms spiky filaments, ...

Research identifies protein that regulates body clock

August 26, 2015

New research into circadian rhythms by researchers at the University of Toronto Mississauga shows that the GRK2 protein plays a major role in regulating the body's internal clock and points the way to remedies for jet lag ...

0 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.