Kidneys are the most commonly transplanted — and needed — organ. Although they are one of the few organs you can receive from a live donor, people still die after long waits for a viable kidney. However, in a new study, researchers from the Salk Institute in California figured out a way to grow unlimited kidney cells in a lab — a finding that could someday address the lack of kidney donors, and also allow us to more accurately study kidney diseases.
The Salk researchers successfully created nephron progenitor cells, a type of human kidney precursor cell that can differentiate into kidney tissue. Usually these cells only exist in humans during a brief stage in embryonic development, and attempts to create this cell in a laboratory have failed as the cell either died or gradually lost its usefulness by advancing past the precursor state. Having a steady supply of these cells could help scientists someday grow functional organs in a lab.
"We provide a proof-of-principle for how to make and maintain unlimited numbers of precursor kidney cells," Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, professor in Salk's Gene Expression Laboratory and study co-author, said in a recent statement. Continue reading
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