For the first time, scientists have made cells from healthy adult kidneys behave like stem cells, which can be used to grow any type of body tissue.
Stem cell research has attracted controversy in the past because it normally requires working on human embryos but the breakthrough by Monash University scientists means that only adult kidney tissues are used.
The researchers were able to reprogram the cells to create “induced pluripotent stem” (iPS) cells, which behave like unspecialised, embryonic stem cells. The iPS cells can then be studied to better understand kidney disease and to test new drug treatments.
“This research is a critical stepping stone for the development of iPS cells from patients with genetic kidney disease, which is one of the most common life threatening genetic conditions,” said the lead researcher, Associate Professor Sharon Ricardo of Monash University.
The new cells will boost understanding of how kidney disease works and raises the possibility of new treatments for people with genetic kidney problems.
In the longer term, the iPS cells could be generated to fix genetic defects in kidneys, said Dr Ricardo.
The research was published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology