The chronic global shortage of donor’s kidney leaves many end-stage renal disease patients reliant on continued dialysis treatment. If we look into recent discoveries in medical science, researchers at the National Institute for Physiological Sciences in Japan have tried to grow mouse kidneys inside rats using transplanted stem cells, to address the donor kidney shortage.
The findings of this research will be published in an upcoming issue of Nature Communications.
Many patients suffering from end-stage renal disease never get to undergo transplant surgery thanks to a chronic shortage of donor’s kidney. With 95% of the patients on the waiting list for a donor kidney in India alone, demand by far exceeds supply.
However, researchers have been figuring out different ways to grow healthy organs outside the human body. Blastocyst complementation is one such method that has produced promising results until now. Blastocysts are clusters of cells formed days after egg fertilization. Now, researchers take these blastocysts from animals missing specific organs and inject them with stem cells from a normal donor, not necessarily of the same species. Experiments have shown that the stem cells then differentiate to generate the entire missing organ in the resulting animal. We can positively say that this can potentially be used in transplantation therapy because the new organ hence formed retains all the characteristics of the original stem cell donor.
The lead author of the new study said that they had previously used blastocyst complementation to generate rat pancreas in pancreatic mutant mice. It is after that success they thought about investigating whether the method could be used to generate functional kidneys. Owing to the high donor demand, this would have much greater application in regenerative medicine.
Researchers initially attempted to grow rat kidneys in mice, but it proved to be unsuccessful, as rat stem cells did not readily differentiate into the two main types of cells needed for kidney formation. However, when the reverse scenario was attempted, that is, when mouse kidneys were grown in rats, the stem cells of mice efficiently differentiated inside the blastocysts of rats, forming the basic structures of a kidney.
These complemented blastocysts matured into normal fetuses after being implanted into pseudo-pregnant rats. Astonishingly, more than 66% of the resulting rat neonates contained a pair of kidneys derived from the mouse stem cells. All the more, tests showed that all of the kidneys were intact structurally, and a of minimum 50% could potentially produce urine.
Researchers say that these findings confirm that interspecific blastocyst complementation is a viable method for kidney generation. In the future, this method could be used to generate human stem cell-derived organs in livestock which will result in an extended human lifespan and improvement in the quality of life of lakhs of patients worldwide.
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