Thursday, September 8, 2011

New Hope for Treating Kidney Disease

Two recent studies have been published which once again highlight the vast potential of induced pluripotent stems cells (iPSCs) to benefit patients, this time patients with kidney disease.  Both studies were published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology

In the first, scientists at Australia’s Monash University, led by Dr. Sharon Ricardo, extracted human kidney cells and reprogrammed them into iPS cells, which could then be transformed into other kidney cells that could potentially be transplanted to repair the damaged organ. 

In the second report, researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Guangzhou, led by Dr. Miguel Esteban, found they could gather kidney cells from a patient’s urine and reprogram them into iPS cells.  The reprogrammed cells, also, could be transformed into other kidney cells for potential transplant.  An additional benefit is that scientists could freeze the urine cells for future use when needed.

Other researchers into kidney diseases hailed the reports.  Dr. Ivonne Schulman, an assistant professor of clinical medicine and nephrologist at the University of Miami's Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute in Florida, said that "Two papers back-to-back show that two different kidney cell types are able to be reprogrammed…This is very significant."  She added: "It could theoretically help all types of kidney disease…it just depends on the ability of these cells to differentiate back into the cell types needed for that disease."

Dr. Jeffrey I. Silberzweig, co-medical director of the Rogosin Institute Manhattan Dialysis Center in New York City, also welcomed the reports: "The idea that you can have the ability to do stem cell transplants during the early stage of kidney disease and regenerate the damaged part of the kidney would be a tremendous benefit for patients and the country as a whole."

In addition to their potential use in transplants, the reprogrammed kidney cells could also be beneficial for disease modeling, to study the origins and development of kidney disease and for drug screening of new medications to treat kidney disease.

Both these studies come soon after a report that scientists working with insulin producing beta cells successfully reprogrammed such cells to become iPSCs, and that these reprogrammed cells were very efficient in producing more beta cells for potential transplant.  The researchers believe the reason for such efficiency is because the reprogrammed cells retain a “memory” of their origin as beta cells so they already have an “understanding,” as it were, of their purpose to generate additional beta cells.  It may well be that scientists working with the reprogrammed kidney cells will find the same phenomenon at work here as well (see previous blog “Advances in Diabetes Research –Without hESCs”).

Meanwhile, research using human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) to treat kidney disease shows that it has the potential to generate, well, a lot of talk about the potential of hESCs to treat kidney disease…

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