Australian scientists have succeeded in developing a method that allows for mini-kidneys to be grown from stem cells in a petri dish their labs.
That’s Right, Miniature Kidneys
This achievement could be of great help with drug research, and one day it may even assist those in dire need of a kidney transplant. The research, published in Nature, reveals that by using stem cells from human skin cells or fibroblasts, Australian team was able to make the cells form a mini-organ. It takes 18 days to develop, and once grown, they’re visible without a microscope. It’s around half a centimeter in length and 1cm in width, a stark difference from a regular kidney, which is typically about the size of a fist.
Adding the Right Ingredients in the Right Order
Almost 10 years ago, it was discovered that a cell could be taken from anyone, and be convinced to revert to the stage where it’s essentially a fertilized egg. So the team, lead by Melissa Little, was able to turn the stem cells into any tissue type.
Essentially, they put different concentrations and types of growth factors in a certain order into the petri dish, and once it became a certain size, they take all the cells and put them together. The entire recipe for these kidney ‘organoids’ is detailed in the research.
It Doesn’t Function Like An Adult Kidney, But It Could in the Future
An adult kidney homes around 1 million nephrons, structures that perform its filtering function, and these mini-kidneys house around 50 to 100. These little wonders also lack the waste drainage outlet indispensable to kidney function. They’re closer to a kidney found in a fetus around the early second trimester.
When a patient’s kidneys are failing, there are only two options of treatment: either get a transplant or go into dialysis, and the team has made it their mission to find new alternatives.
These mini-kidneys can already be of use, since some can be grown from someone with an ailed kidney. This would give way for research that would lead to a better understanding of renal illnesses. Drugs could also be tested on them for efficiency. These little guys could even one day be put into a failing kidney to help fix it, and it could, in a hopefully near future, be viable for organ transplants.