Scottish researchers at the University of Edinburgh have managed to grow tiny kidneys measuring just 0.2 inches long. Their breakthrough represents a giant leap forward in the future treatment of kidney disease. The organs, created in the lab using stem cells from human amniotic fluid and animal fetal cells, are of the same size and complexity as those found in a fetus in the womb. The researchers anticipate that, one day, organs like these could be implanted into human patients and develop into mature, fully functioning kidneys after a year or more; researchers in the United States have shown that fetal kidneys implanted into an animal can grow into mature organs. Scientists foresee a time when stem cells from amniotic fluid would be stored after birth for future use. Using a patient’s own stem cells to generate organs would likely eliminate the need for harmful transplant rejection drugs.
Testing in humans is at least a decade away. The scientists must now discover precisely how the human and animal stem cells work together if they are to duplicate the same results with human stem cells alone.
Scientists in Organ Donor Breakthrough, By Lyndsay Moss, The Scotsman, April 10, 2011