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Stem Cell Therapy Holds Promise for Kidney Disease
Date:8/4/2011

By Denise Mann
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Aug. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers may be one step closer to harnessing the power of stem cells to help treat, and potentially cure, kidney disease.

Two new studies, both published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, demonstrate that kidney cells can be reprogrammed to morph into other types of kidney cells needed to repair damage.

In one report, scientists out of Monash University in Australia extracted kidney cells and reprogrammed them so they could behave like other kidney cells. In a second related study, researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Guangzhou, China, collected kidney cells from urine and were also able to reprogram them.

The next step is to see if the cell lines -- called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) -- can be expanded, and then injected back into people with kidney disease to develop functional tissue and/or organs. While this may be years off and there are many steps left to take, the technology has the potential to cure certain hereditary forms of kidney disease and acute kidney injury, and could eliminate the need for dialysis and/or kidney transplants in some patients with end-stage kidney disease.

Dr. Ivonne Schulman, an assistant professor of clinical medicine and nephrologist at the University of Miami's Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute in Florida, said that this is the first time that researchers have shown that kidney cells could be reprogrammed and made to behave like embryonic stem cells, meaning they have the potential to differentiate into other types of kidney cells.

"Two papers back-to-back show that two different kidney cell types are able to be reprogrammed," she said. "This is very significant."

The ultimate goal would be to inject these cells back into patients and try to regenerate kidney tissue, Schulman explained. "It could theoretically
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