It’s a world first: Scientists at Kumamoto University, led by Professor Nishinakamura, have developed pieces of kidneys in vitro from induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. This work was published in the Stem Cell Journal on 12 December 2013.
The kidney is an extremely complex vital organ that essentially allows hormone secretion or blood filtration. Chronic kidney failure causes numerous disorders such as Diabetes mellitus, which pose numerous difficulties for patients. Those affected have to follow a rigid treatment regimen or undergo transplant surgery – the ideal solution to improve their lives. However, very few kidneys are available for transplantation. "To succeed in generating complete organs such as the kidney in vitro would therefore constitute considerable medical progress"
Professor Nishinakamura’s team took up this challenge by recreating "an environment mirroring embryonic kidney development", and managing to differentiate iPS into "metanephrogenic blastemas", which are then reconstituted into three-dimensional renal structures in vitro.
These small kidneys were then transplanted in vivo, and correctly secreted renal proteins. However, they did not produce urine. "These results represent considerable progress", explained Professor Nishinakamura who hopes that this discovery "will pave the way towards total kidney reproduction…"