We often post about new stem cell research developments, many of which have promising clinical applications. Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies are the latest to join the conversation after generating “mini-kidney” structures from human stem cells.
When kidneys are damaged by disease they rarely recover, and for years researchers have been interested in developing regenerative medicine strategies to restore normal function. Scientists have lacked a reliable platform to study drug-based therapies for kidney diseases because previous testing was typically conducted in animals that respond to treatment quite differently than humans. Now for the first time scientists have a platform to directly study diseased human kidney tissue in a lab dish.
Salk researchers developed a method that allows for the differentiation of human stem cells into 3D structures of the ureteric bud, which develops into a conduit for urine drainage from the kidneys. The structures aren’t replacement parts, but they provide an ideal environment for testing drugs to treat kidney disease. Researchers were able to accomplish this with both human embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).
This is an exciting new avenue for studying the development and diseases of the kidneys, and could lead to the discovery of new drugs that target human kidney cells. From a broader perspective, the differentiation strategies represented in this research could provide the cornerstone for disease modeling and drug discovery studies in the future.
1. Salk Institute For Biological Studies. Salk scientists for the first time generate “mini-kidney” structures from human stem cells. November 17, 2013. http://www.salk.edu/news/pressrelease_details.php?press_id=648.
2. CIRM grantees at Salk create kidney buds from human stem cells. California Stem Cell Agency blog. November 19, 2013. http://cirmresearch.blogspot.com/2013/11/cirm-grantees-at-salk-create-kidney.html.