An international team of researchers led by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) has grown ‘miniature kidneys’ in the laboratory that could be used to better understand how kidney diseases develop in individual patients.
The mini kidneys, known as kidney organoids, were grown outside the body from skin cells derived from a single patient who has polycystic kidney disease, one of the most common inherited causes of kidney failure in adults. The researchers reprogrammed these cells to obtain patient-specific pluripotent stem cells, which, under the right conditions, can develop into kidney organoids similar to human fetal kidneys in the first three to six months of development.
By generating induced pluripotent stem cells from an adult patient with a genetic kidney disease, and then growing kidney organoids from them, the research team has paved the way for tailoring treatment plans specific to each patient, which could be extended to a range of kidney diseases. The research, led by NTU Singapore Assistant Professor Xia Yun and her team, which includes NTU Assistant Professor Foo Jia Nee and Professor Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, in San Diego, California, was published in Cell Stem Cell in July 2019.