In one of the studies, researchers were able to collect the kidney cells from urine, which means that they could be collected at anytime, eliminating the need for cell banks. "This makes it very simple," Schulman added.
Dr. Jeffrey I. Silberzweig, co-medical director of the Rogosin Institute Manhattan Dialysis Center in New York City, said that the benefits could be exponential. "The idea that you can have the ability to do stem cell transplants during the early stage of kidney disease and regenerate the damaged part of the kidney would be a tremendous benefit for patients and the country as a whole," he said.
The current treatment for end-stage kidney disease includes dialysis and/or kidney transplantation. Dialysis, which outsources kidney function, is uncomfortable, time-consuming and costly, he noted. Plus, "the supply of kidneys available for transplantation is way behind the number of people who need them," Silberzweig said. Intervening earlier with stem cell therapy could prevent things from ever getting that far.
"If it reaches a point where this technology becomes practical, patients would fall over each other getting in line to do it," Silberzweig said.
"This is a critical and important first step," said Dr. Samuel Saltzberg, a transplant nephrologist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. "We have quite a way to go to get to a point where we can impact kidney disease -- especially in diseases when the whole organ needs to be repaired."
In an editorial accompanying the new studies, Dr. Ian Rogers of Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto wrote that kidney disease may just be the tip of the iceberg. "The advantage of these cells for the diagnosis and treatment of kidney disease is great -- but the ease of collection and the high frequency of reprogramming also me
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