Stem cell-grown mini-kidneys give new insights into kidney d
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An international team of researchers led by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) has grown 'miniature kidneys' in the laboratory that could be used to better understand how kidney diseases develop in individual patients.

The mini kidneys, known as kidneyorganoids, were grown outside the body from skin cells derived from a single patient who has polycystic kidney disease, one of the most common inherited causes of kidney failure in adults.

The researchers reprogrammed these cells to obtain patient-specific pluripotent stem cells, which, under the right conditions, can develop into kidney organoids similar to human foetal kidneys in the first three to six months of development.

New insights into human kidney development

The kidney organoids developed by Asst Prof Xia and her team may also offer new insights into human kidney development, which currently cannot be studied in depth due to concerns surrounding human stem cell research.

While the origin of kidney blood vessel networks is not fully known, it is widely accepted that a type of stem cell known as 'vascular progenitors' is involved in their formation by developing into blood vessel cells.

Understanding the inner workings of a diseased kidney

To study the effects of genetic polycystic kidney disease, Asst Prof Xia and her team first took regular adult cells from an adult patient with the disease and genetically reprogrammed them into stem cells.

The creation of these induced pluripotent stem cells is necessary because the adult human body does not have any kidney stem cells. Two essential chemicals are then added to direct these induced pluripotent stem cells to grow into kidney organoids.

Four to five weeks later, these organoids developed fluid-filled cysts that are characteristic of the disease. This signaled that they were ready to be used to test the efficacy of potential drug candidates for drug development.

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