February 27, 2014

Strides Made in Generation of Kidney Cells from Stem Cells

Here at The CECON Group, our experts and consultants are constantly updating their skills and expertise. This means that they keep their eye on the news in their fields to learn of the latest developments.

One of our consultants in the medical device  sector informed us of new developments in kidney cell research.

Researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute in Boston have published an article announcing a recent advancement in the ability to generate kidney cells from embryonic stem cells, as well as from adult skin stem cells. The article appeared in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, and represents a leap forward in kidney cell research after a long period of relative stasis.

According to Albert Lam, M.D., lead author of the study, his team was able to identify a protein that would differentiate the stem cells into the early cells that eventually turn into kidneys, called the intermediate mesoderm. Additional manipulations led those early cells into further differentiations and the expression of marker SIX2, which heralds kidney cell differentiation.

The specific treatment involved the application of glycogen synthase kinase 3 beta inhibitor CHIR99021, as well as the same treatment followed by introduction of fibroblast growth factor 2 and retinoic acid.

Though Lam is quick to point out that medical science is still many years away from being able to regenerate functional kidneys, once the results of this research can be reliably recreated, it will be very useful in kidney-related research in the laboratory. 

According to Lam, headway in kidney regeneration has been running behind that of similar work involving other organs, but there have recently been several studies that have collectively moved the research forward. “It feels like we’ve been behind for a decade and suddenly within a few weeks, four papers come out. This should certainly spur interest and move the field more quickly.”

The other studies that Lam referenced came from a December 2013 study by Melissa Little, PhD, of the University of Queensland in Brisane, Australia, a study published in November 2013 from researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, and a study published in January 2014 by Japanese researchers. He dismissed the idea that any of the studies had approached the growth of functional kidneys. “It’s one thing to make the cells of the developing kidney and another to make three-dimensional structures that can replace diseased kidneys. We may be closer, but we have a long way to go before we get there.”

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