Bioengineered kidneys could help alleviate organ shortage

Xavier Symons
27 Apr 2013
Reproduced with Permission

Scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston have created bioengineered rat kidneys which successfully filter blood and produce urine. If the technique works with humans, it could do away with the need for donor kidneys.

However, there are still many hurdles to be overcome. The organs produced only a third as much urine as normal kidneys, and disposed of creatinine - a waste product of muscles - 36 times more slowly.

According to a report in Nature News, "The team, led by organ-regeneration specialist Harald Ott, started with the kidneys of recently deceased rats and used detergent to strip away the cells, leaving behind the underlying scaffold of connective tissues such as the structural components of blood vessels. They then regenerated the organ by seeding this scaffold with two cell types: human umbilical-vein cells to line the blood vessels, and kidney cells from newborn rats to produce the other tissues that make up the organ."

If the technique can be "upscaled" for humans, the implications are momentous. Because the kidneys would be produced with a patient's own cells, there would be no immune rejection. "In an ideal world, if someone walks into the hospital and has a kidney grown on demand, there's no donor organ shortage and there are no immune problems," Ott says.