Researchers at Wake Forest
Baptist Medical Center in the USA found that human kidneys discarded for
transplant can potentially serve as a natural "scaffolding material" for
manufacturing replacement organs in the lab using regenerative medicine
The research though still
in infancy has the potential to take care of some of the kidney shortage.
In the USA and other countries there is a huge shortage of kidneys and the gap
between demand and supply is constantly increasing.
Currently in the USA alone 2,600 kidneys are discarded every year and in
other countries too the discard rate is as much as 5 to 10% of all donated
lead author of the research Giuseppe Orlando, M.D., Ph.D "With about 100,000
people in the U.S. awaiting kidney transplants, it is devastating when an organ
is donated but cannot be used. These discarded organs may represent an ideal
platform for investigations aimed at manufacturing kidneys for transplant."
According to the authors, the probability in the U.S. of receiving a kidney
transplant within five years of being added to the waiting list is less than 35
percent, and people age 60 or older who are placed on the waiting list only
have a 50 percent chance of ever receiving a kidney.
In fact, an analysis of the
decellularized organs revealed that antigens likely to cause an immune response
were removed in the cleaning process. "This finding has significant
implications," said Orlando. "It indicates that transplantation of such
customized kidneys could be performed without the need for anti-rejection
In addition, these kidneys maintain their innate three-dimensional
architecture, their basic biochemistry, as well as their vessel network system.
When we tested their ability to be transplanted (in pigs), these kidneys were
able to maintain blood pressure, suggesting a functional and resilient
The science of regenerative medicine has already had success in engineering
skin, cartilage, bladders, urine tubes, trachea and blood vessels in the lab
that were successfully implanted in patients.
Most of these structures were
able to receive oxygen and nutrients from nearby tissues until they developed
their own blood vessel supply. However, more complex organs such as the
kidney, liver, heart and pancreas are larger with dense cellular networks and
must have their own oxygen supply to survive. The need for a blood supply is
why scientists are exploring the possibility of using donor organs and
"seeding" them with a patient's own cells.
Dr.Shroff, a transplant surgeon from India and trustee of MOHAN Foundation an
NGO promoting organ donation in India, commenting on this recent research
said -"this is the dawn of a new era in regenerative medicine and
the potential is huge if the research succeeds."
Can similar application be made available for other organs and could it
significantly improve the organ donation rare? Dr.Shroff added that "the
kidneys retrieved even from a naturally dead person may perhaps be used for
this purpose and if this was possible it could take care of organ shortage in
the true sense. This research also opens up similar possibility for other solid
organs such as liver and the best thing maybe minimal requirement of lifelong
The research was supported in part by a grant from the
state of North Carolina.