Updated 04:45 PM EDT, Mon, Oct 19, 2020

Scientists Grow Kidneys From Skin Cells

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Led by Professor Melissa Little, a group of researchers from the Netherlands and the University of Queensland's Institute of Molecular Bioscience have successfully developed a mature kidney by reprogramming human skin cells.

ABC News reports that the miniature kidneys come complete with blood vessels and filtration systems, similar as one would find in a developing fetus' kidney.

The mini kidney measures 6mm in length. On Business Insider Australia, Little says that an adult kidney "is larger than a softball."

According to a report by the NPR, kidneys can fail due to infection, disease or ingesting poisons. The creation of the mini kidney opens the door for replacement kidneys to be developed in the future or provide alternatives for patients suffering from kidney failure.

As of the moment, the resulting organ cannot be used in transplants. However, Little is optimistic, telling NPR reporters that theoretically, parts can be transplanted inside a patient.

Little told Business Insider that the miniature kidneys can be used in clinical trials and test the possible effects of drugs on the human body, without having to test the drugs on actual people yet. This promising experiment can allow laboratories and companies to save time and millions of dollars in testing costs.

In a report by the Sydney Morning Herald, Little states that mice are normally used for testing. Little says, "Now for the first time we have a chance to ask what is different between a human and a mouse kidney because we don't study human kidneys for obvious reasons."

"Creating a model kidney containing many different kidney cell types also opens the door for cell therapy and even bioengineering of replacement kidneys. One day this may mean new treatments for patients with kidney failure," Little tells Business Insider.

Little says, "Making stem cells from patients with kidney disease, and then growing a mini-kidney that matches the patient, will help us understand that patient's disease and develop treatments for them."

Professor Jamie Davies of the University of Edinburgh echoes Little's optimism. He states in the NPR news report that the pharmaceutical industry will likely take great interest in what these mini kidneys can do as these can "be good proxies for human kidneys so they can do their safety testing on those."

Davies is not a member of the research group but has written a commentary supplementing Little's paper in Nature. He reveals to NPR reporters, "The really long-term application and the thing we're all trying to do is to produce from a patient's own cells to produce new kidneys for them."

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