A major and unsolved health issue worldwide is disease affecting the kidneys. The kidneys rarely recover function once they are damaged by disease, highlighting the urgent need for better knowledge of kidney development and physiology.
Now, a team of researchers led by scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies has developed a novel platform to study kidney diseases, opening new avenues for the future application of regenerative medicine strategies to help restore kidney function.
For the first time, the Salk researchers have generated three-dimensional kidney structures from human stem cells, opening new avenues for studying the development and diseases of the kidneys and to the discovery of new drugs that target human kidney cells. The findings were reported November 17 in Nature Cell Biology
Scientists had created precursors of kidney cells using stem cells as recently as this past summer, but the Salk team was the first to coax human stem cells into forming three-dimensional cellular structures similar to those found in our kidneys.
"Attempts to differentiate human stem cells into renal cells have had limited success," says senior study author Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a professor in Salk's Gene Expression Laboratory and holder of the Roger Guillemin Chair. "We have developed a simple and efficient method that allows for the differentiation of human stem cells into well-organized 3D structures of the ureteric bud (UB), which later develops into the collecting duct system."