News / Health

Bioengineered Kidney a Possible Solution to Donor-Organ Crisis

FILE - Dr. Stephen Badylak (University of Pittsburgh)
FILE - Dr. Stephen Badylak (University of Pittsburgh)
Jessica Berman
Scientists in Boston, Massachusetts, have for the first time bioengineered a functioning rat kidney, a development that could eventually change the lives of humans on lengthy organ-transplant waiting lists.  But some experts are concerned the technology could run up against a lengthy regulatory process.  

In the United States alone, an estimated 17,000 people a year with end-stage kidney disease are able to receive a life-saving donor organ.  But that’s only a fraction of the patients on waiting lists for transplantable kidneys.  About 90 percent of them are on dialysis; many die waiting.

That makes the achievement by researcher Harald Ott and colleagues at Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital especially exciting, says Stephen Badylak, a pioneer in the field of organ regeneration at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania.

“So, this has the potential to take care of that [donor shortage] problem and, even better, if it works, the patients who receive these types of engineered organs won’t have to receive an immunosuppressant," said Badylak. "I think everyone on renal dialysis now would applaud this work.”

Dr. Badylak's own work in regenerative medicine involves developing livers for transplant.

Dr. Ott’s team used a detergent to completely cleanse the rat kidney of living tissue, leaving a protein framework that retains the structure of the blood vessels and other parts of the organ.  The scientists then repopulated that framework with human cells for the blood vessel linings, and kidney cells from newborn rats.  The reassembled organ was then put in an incubating chamber for five days to let the tissues grow.  The result was a functioning rat kidney.  

Although the regenerated rat kidney in Ott's study produced urine, it did not function as well as a natural organ.

It’s possible, says Stephen Badylak, that patients needing transplants could have their own dysfunctional organs regenerated in the same way.  Badylak says they would not have to take immunosuppressant drugs, with all their unpleasant side effects, to keep their bodies from rejecting a donor organ.  

At the rate the field is progressing, Badylak predicts organ regeneration could become a real option for human transplant patients in five to seven years.  But he's concerned about major regulatory hurdles.

“We are going to be ready to help people with this before we are going to have regulatory agencies telling us 'wait until we figure out how to handle it.'  This should be a wake up call for them to say, ‘This is coming," he said. "How are we going to take care of this?'”

Curt Civin leads the Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine Center at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.  

He says hematopoietic stem cells, or master cells from bone marrow, have been studied longer than any other tissue.

Civin says the blood stem cells from marrow are at the heart of regenerative medicine because they animate the organ scaffold, making it function.   

But Civin believes the complexity of the field means it will be a while before entire customized organs, such as kidneys, are available for human transplant.

“So I think this problem will yield - in perhaps one decade, perhaps two decades - to where we have lots of rats and mice and other animals with transplanted kidneys made from stem cells, maybe by techniques very much like this, and then we’re at the setting to study in the [human] patients," said Civin.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has regulatory authority over any new drugs, medical devices and procedures, did not offer a comment.  The agency has strict guidelines requiring data from clinical trials before deciding whether to approve a procedure - a process that can take years.  

But the FDA also has a fast-track approval process to expedite the review of drugs or in this case, the regeneration of organs for transplantation, when there is a serious, unmet medical need.

An article on the creation of a functioning rat kidney by Harald Ott and colleagues is published in the journal Nature Medicine.

You May Like

US Firms Concerned About China's New Cyber Regulations

New rules would require technology companies doing business in financial sector to hand over their source code, adopt Chinese encryption algorithms More

WHO Focus on Ebola Shifts to Ending Outbreak

Focus to be less on building facilities and more on efforts to find infected people, manage their cases, engage with communities and ensure proper burials More

US Scientist Who Conceived of Groundbreaking Laser Technology Dies

Charles Townes, Nobel laureate, laser co-creator paved way for other scientific discoveries: CDs, eye surgery, metal cutters to name a few technologies that rely on lasers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Webi
X
January 29, 2015 9:58 AM
Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video As Ground Shifts, Obama Reviews Middle East Strategy

The death of Saudi Arabia’s king, the collapse of a U.S.-friendly government in Yemen and a problematic relationship with Israel’s leadership are presenting a new set of complications for the Obama administration and its Middle East policy. Not only is the U.S. leader dealing with adversaries in Iran, the Islamic State and al-Qaida, but he is now juggling trouble with traditional allies, as White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid