Bioengineered Implantable Rat Kidney Created At Massachusetts General Hospital
April 15, 2013

Lab-Created Kidney Successfully Transplanted Into Rat

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Scientists have successfully bioengineered a kidney and implanted it into a living creature — work which could be an important step forward in the search for personalized replacement organs that could be transplanted into patients with kidney failure, according to media reports published Sunday.

According to Alok Jha, science correspondent with The Guardian, Dr. Harald Ott of the Center for Regenerative Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and colleagues took rat kidneys and used a solution of detergent to remove their functional cells. He then took the remaining cellular matrices — the collagen frames which gives the organs their three-dimensional structure — and then covered them with kidney and blood vessel cells from newborn rats.

Ott and his team then cultured the growing organs for 12 days until the cells had grown to the point where they covered the cellular matrix. They then implanted a kidney into a living rat, where it was able to filter the rodent´s blood and successfully produced urine. The research is described in its entirety in Sunday´s edition of the journal Nature Medicine.

More than 100,000 Americans with end-stage renal disease are on waiting lists for donor kidneys, but as many as 10,000 of them die annually before making it to the top of the transplant list, Reuters reporter Sharon Begley explained. Ott told her that if his procedure, which has proven successful with rats “can be scaled to human-sized grafts,” then those patients waiting for donor kidneys “could theoretically receive new organs derived from their own cells.”

“Ott said he thinks using different kinds of cells to build up a kidney on the scaffold could work even better, since the immaturity of the renal cells they used might have kept the lab-made transplant from performing as well as nature's,” Begley added. “If the technology is ever ready to make kidneys for people, the cells would come from the intended recipient, which would minimize the risk of organ rejection and reduce the need for lifelong immune suppression to prevent that“¦ Although the technique requires human kidneys to provide the scaffold, the organs do not have to be in as good working order as those for transplant.”

Ott told Jha that the technique needs to be further refined, but could eventually result in bioengineered kidneys taking the place of donor kidneys in transplant procedures. He and his colleagues hope that they will eventually be able to use a patient´s own cells to grow a replacement for his or her damaged or diseased kidney, thus eliminating the need for the recipient to take immunosuppressant drugs for the duration of his or her life.

Elaine Davies, head of research operations at Kidney Research UK, said that the research was “fascinating,” but also cautioned that regenerative medicine “is still really in its infancy in terms of kidney disease.”

“Predominantly, it's just the fact that the kidney is a much more complex organ in terms of being able to replicate its anatomy and physiology when you compare it to other organs like skin or heart. It has many different types of cells within it and it has a very complex structure in terms of the different functions it performs,” she told The Guardian. “There's hope with a caution. I'm not saying we won't get there but it could be in [many] decades' time.”