Japanese researcher, Hiromitsu Nakauchi, University of Tokyo Laboratory of Stem Cell Therapy, announced he and his team used stem cells from a mouse embryo to grow kidneys in mice missing the organs. Nakauchi said he is optimistic that the research may produce organs fit for use in humans in 10 years.
The team injected embryonic stem cells into juvenile mouse embryos lacking a crucial gene needed to grow kidneys. Once implanted into the uterus, the embryos grew into fetuses with kidneys. Kidneys were grown in three mice. One had minor abnormalities. The others seemed normal, Nakauchi said.
Nakauchi will transplant the lab-manufactured kidneys into healthy mice later this year to check their function. He also plans to do a similar experiment in either pigs or cows. Nakauchi added it's the first time kidneys have been grown using embryonic stem cells. Scientists have previously grown a pancreas using a similar technique, he said.
"Just how exciting this is depends on the kind of [embryonic] stem cells they used," said Dr. Alan Russell, director of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh.
Because mouse stem cells were involved, that means kidneys can be generated in specially bred mice. The real test, Russell said, is producing kidneys from human-derived stem cells.
The research may spur the production of replacement organs that would avoid the need for patients to wait for life-saving transplants. About 100,000 people are waiting for donors in the U.S., the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network said on its web site. Kidneys are the most needed body parts, followed by livers, lungs and hearts.
Illustration: Kidneys, seen from behind with the spine removed. – Wikipedia.
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