Australian researchers have come up with a way to nudge the stem cells to grow into a 'self-organizing' kidney in a lab. The study will help in developing newer treatments for patients suffering from chronic kidney disease and also open up avenues for growing other organs in the lab.
The latest research was conducted at the University of Queensland, Australia.
Stem cells can develop into many different types of cells in the body during early life. Currently, scientists around the world are trying to get these stem cells to change into tissues or even organs. However, there are major obstacles in growing organs artificially.
Professor Brandon Wainwright, from the University of Queensland said that the current research was "like a scientific approach to cooking." The team had to study each gene and understand when they switch "on" and "off" during kidney development. They then had to get the skin cells back to embryonic cell stage and then manipulate them into forming structures found in kidneys, The Telegraph reported.
"During self-organisation, different types of cells arrange themselves with respect to each other to create the complex structures that exist within an organ, in this case, the kidney," Professor Melissa Little from UQ's Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB), said in a news release. "The fact that such stem cell populations can undergo self-organisation in the laboratory bodes well for the future of tissue bioengineering to replace damaged and diseased organs and tissues."
The new biological structures could also be used in clinical trials to test the safety and efficacy of experimental drugs. Using artificially-created human organs to test drugs could drive down the time and cost of manufacturing a drug.
Researchers added that the current study is in its infancy and there is still a long way to go before using the kidneys in human subjects.
The current study is published in the journal Nature Cell Biology.
This isn't the first time that researchers have tried coaxing stem cells to grow into kidneys. Previously, Kyoto University researchers had announced that they had created parts of a working kidney in lab using stem cells. Last month, researchers at Salk Institute for Biological Studies, too, reported developing 3D cellular structures that resemble those found in human kidney.
And kidneys aren't the only organs being made in labs. Columbia University Medical Center researchers recently reported that they've transformed human stem cells into functioning lung cells.
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