Cooking up a new kidney

The Boston Kidney Recipe

  1. Take an unwanted kidney.
  2. Disconnect from plumbing.
  3. Wash away cells (use plenty of detergent).
  4. Take resultant scaffold and reseed with a few cells obtained from someone needing the kidney.
  5. Place in bioreactor and “cook” for 3 to 5d (or until done)
  6. Place regenerated kidneys into the transplant recipient and connect to plumbing.
  7. Pee.

In Nature Medicine today Massachusetts General Hospital based researchers have announced the successful removal of an unwanted kidney from one rat, the removal of cells from that kidney, regeneration with stem cells from another rat, transplantation into that animal and the observation of  urine production*.  A  small step for a rat, a giant leap for anyone waiting for a transplant.  Why is this so important?  As the authors’ state:

“A bioengineered kidney derived from patient-derived cells and regenerated ‘on demand’ for transplantation could provide an alternative treatment for patients suffering from renal failure.”

While this study is “proof of context”, it is a beautiful proof and one which should bring hope to millions. There are many more people with End Stage Renal Disease than kidneys available for transplant.  Some donated kidneys currently considered not good for transplant may become viable in the future if the cells are stripped off and the patient’s own stem cells can be used to grow a new kidney over the scaffold of the old one.  By using the patient’s own cells the immune response may be reduced.  This will mean less dependence of immunosuppressant drugs and therefore fewer side effects, including  cancer, and less transplant rejection. This is the vision and one that can not come soon enough.  Have a look at the video and if you want to get into details, check out the paper* .

*Regeneration and experimental orthotopic transplantation of a bioengineered kidney. Jeremy J Song, Jacques P Guyette, Sarah E Gilpin, Gabriel Gonzalez, Joseph P Vacanti & Harald C Ott1. Nature Medicine. Advance Publication Online. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nm.3154

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