Stem Cell Therapy Holds Promise for Kidney
THURSDAY, Aug. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers may be one step
closer to harnessing the power of stem cells to help treat, and
potentially cure, kidney disease.
Two new studies, both published in a recent issue of the
Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, demonstrate that kidney cells can be reprogrammed to morph into other types of kidney cells needed to repair damage.
In one report, scientists out of Monash University in Australia
extracted kidney cells and reprogrammed them so they could behave
like other kidney cells. In a second related study, researchers
from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Guangzhou, China, collected
kidney cells from urine and were also able to reprogram them.
The next step is to see if the cell lines -- called induced
pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) -- can be expanded, and then injected
back into people with kidney disease to develop functional tissue
and/or organs. While this may be years off and there are many steps
left to take, the technology has the potential to cure certain
hereditary forms of kidney disease and acute kidney injury, and
could eliminate the need for dialysis and/or kidney transplants in
some patients with end-stage kidney disease.
Dr. Ivonne Schulman, an assistant professor of clinical medicine
and nephrologist at the University of Miami's Interdisciplinary
Stem Cell Institute in Florida, said that this is the first time
that researchers have shown that kidney cells could be reprogrammed
and made to behave like embryonic stem cells, meaning they have the
potential to differentiate into other types of kidney cells.
"Two papers back-to-back show that two different kidney cell types are able to be reprogrammed," she said. "This is very significant."
The ultimate goal would be to inject these cells back into
patients and try to regenerate kidney tissue, Schulman explained.
"It could theoretically help all types of kidney disease," she
said. "It just depends on the ability of these cells to
differentiate back into the cell types needed for that
In one of the studies, researchers were able to collect the
kidney cells from urine, which means that they could be collected
at anytime, eliminating the need for cell banks. "This makes it
very simple," Schulman added.
Dr. Jeffrey I. Silberzweig, co-medical director of the Rogosin
Institute Manhattan Dialysis Center in New York City, said that the
benefits could be exponential. "The idea that you can have the
ability to do stem cell transplants during the early stage of
kidney disease and regenerate the damaged part of the kidney would
be a tremendous benefit for patients and the country as a whole,"
The current treatment for end-stage kidney disease includes
dialysis and/or kidney transplantation. Dialysis, which outsources
kidney function, is uncomfortable, time-consuming and costly, he
noted. Plus, "the supply of kidneys available for transplantation
is way behind the number of people who need them," Silberzweig
said. Intervening earlier with stem cell therapy could prevent
things from ever getting that far.
"If it reaches a point where this technology becomes practical, patients would fall over each other getting in line to do it," Silberzweig said.
"This is a critical and important first step," said Dr. Samuel Saltzberg, a transplant nephrologist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. "We have quite a way to go to get to a point where we can impact kidney disease -- especially in diseases when the whole organ needs to be repaired."
In an editorial accompanying the new studies, Dr. Ian Rogers of
Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto wrote that kidney disease may just
be the tip of the iceberg. "The advantage of these cells for the
diagnosis and treatment of kidney disease is great -- but the ease
of collection and the high frequency of reprogramming also means
there may be benefits to urine cells for iPSC production beyond
Learn more about kidney disease at the
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