Australian scientists grow world’s first kidney from stem cells in a breakthrough that could alleviate the demand for organ transplants

The research could eventually help address the demand for transplant organs and improve medical testing of new drugs for patients with kidney disease

The engineered kidney was developed by a team of Australian scientists led by the University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience.

Professor Wainwright said the process for developing the kidney was “like a scientific approach to cooking”. The scientists methodically examined which genes were switched on and off during kidney development and then manipulated the skin cells into embryonic stem cells which could “self-organise” and form complex human structures.

“The [researchers] spent years looking at what happens if you turn this gene off and this one on,” he said. “You can eventually coax these stem cells through a journey – they [the cells] go through various stages and then think about being a kidney cell and eventually pop together to form a little piece of kidney.”

The research could eventually help address the demand for transplant organs and improve medical testing of new drugs for patients with kidney disease.

Human kidneys are particularly susceptible to damage during trials, which makes finding effective medicines costly and time-consuming.

Professor Melissa Little, from the University of Queensland, said scientists could try to grow full-grown kidneys for transplants or even “clusters of mini kidneys” that could be transplanted to boost patients’ renal functions. But she told The Australian she believed such developments were still more than a decade away.

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