Does the Kidney Cure Lie Within?

Kidney damage may be repaired by patients kidney cells

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Many kidney disease patients eventually have to go on dialysis or get a transplant to stay alive. So, how can doctors keep patients' kidneys working? The answer may lie in the cells of the kidneys themselves.

Kidney cells can be gathered and reprogrammed to make new, healthy kidney cells. This process repairs damaged kidneys and possibly could lead to a cure for kidney disease.

"Your own kidney cells may bring your kidneys back to good health."

These findings come from two recent studies. The first was conducted by Sharon Ricardo, Ph.D., from Monash University in Australia, and her colleagues. The second study was conducted by Miguel Esteban, M.D., Ph.D., from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and his colleagues.

While each study found a different way to gather and reprogram kidney cells, both groups of researchers found that they could tell these reprogrammed cells - which are called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) - to replace the damaged kidney cells in kidney disease patients.

The combined results of these two research teams shows that it is possible to use kidney cells as a source for iPSCs, says Ian Rogers, Ph.D., from Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. In other words, the studies show that damaged kidneys can be brought back to health by using these cells.

Rogers also notes that the study by Dr. Esteban and colleagues shows that it does not have to be hard to collect iPSCs.

In that study, the researchers found that they could collect kidney cells from the urine, which is relatively easy to do. What's more, kidney cells gathered from urine can be frozen and saved for later. When they are ready to be reprogrammed, researchers only have to thaw them.

In the second study, Ricardo and colleagues collected cells directly from someone's kidney. Then they get the cells to become progenitor cells - cells that are like stem cells but have more of an idea of what kind of cell they will become. As a result, the progenitor cells can become any kind of cell found in the kidney.

The results from these two studies - which are published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology - could lead to better treatments for other health problems, especially because of how easy it is to collect and reprogram the cells. 

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 29, 2011
Last Updated:
July 30, 2011