Advanced stem-cell derived kidneys accelerate progress towards treatments

Dr Jessica Vanslambrouck and her team at reNEW Melbourne, based at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, have advanced our ability to grow complex models of human kidney tissue to benefit kidney disease understanding and treatment.

With limited treatment options, chronic kidney disease (CKD) affects more than 800 million people worldwide and is a leading cause of death globally. While underlying gene defects are thought to account for around 50% of CKD in children, the exact genetic cause is often unknown.

Lab grown, human pluripotent stem cell-derived kidney models, called kidney organoids, are a valuable tool in helping researchers better understand the kidney and how disease develops, as well to investigate potential new treatments.

A critical component of kidneys are the proximal tubules, which are responsible for filtering the blood and reabsorbing essential substances back into the body. They also remove waste products and toxins from the bloodstream. Currently, proximal tubules in kidney organoids are undeveloped.

Dr Vanslambrouck and the team in the Murdoch Children’s Kidney Regeneration Lab, have created a new method for growing kidney organoids with improved proximal tubules, which better represent human kidneys. Highlighted as This Week’s Feature Protocol in Nature Protocol, and slated for cover feature on the upcoming issue, this new protocol is now available online.

Dr Vanslambrouck said, “Through this new protocol, we are advancing our ability to grow better models of kidney that help us better understand kidney development and disease. These advances will drive us towards finding new treatments for kidney disease, such as through drug screening, and better understand how damage to the kidney occurs”.

The team have also demonstrated that the proximal tubules in kidney organoids grown using their advanced protocol display increased functionality.

“Our ability to reliably grow functioning proximal tubules in kidney organoids gives us a platform for advancing bioengineering methods aimed at enhancing kidney function for people living with CKD.”

Dr Vanslambrouck has recently published the impact of their finding in Nature’s Biotechnology & Bioengineering Community and full information on the origin of this protocol was published in Nature Communications.

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