The consequences for patients whose kidneys have lost function are severe. Our research focusses on finding a way to give them their life back. We grow kidney cells, made from stem cells, into organoids. We hope that one day they could support or even replace non-functioning kidneys by performing a vital job: to constantly filter the blood to clean it and to discard all unwanted matter as urine.
There are currently two treatments for patients with end-stage kidney disease: dialysis (mechanical filtering of the blood). However, these can cause serious side effects and are not always an option. If we can replace or support the non-functioning kidney with lab-grown organoids, we could give these patients their life back.
Pluripotent stem cells from healthy donors are directed in the lab to become kidney cells. Those need to grow, mature, associate and coordinate between themselves to achieve the function that a kidney performs. Organoids are just groups of the right types of cells, still learning to work with each other. There is still a lot of work to do to make the organoids and safe to be applied in patients.
Artistic interpretation of a kidney organoid (day 25). In red the blood vessel cells, irregular cell boundaries with two types of renal cells (blue and green) and swirly forms for the growth medium.
Artist: Ana Hidalgo-Simon
Scientist providing original image and performing the research: Cathelijne van den Berg (lab of Ton Rabelink), reNEW Leiden.