News / Health

Stem Cells From Urine May Treat Human Diseases

Chinese scientists have grown teeth from stem cells cultured from human urine.
Chinese scientists have grown teeth from stem cells cultured from human urine.
Jessica Berman
Researchers have isolated stem cells from urine as the latest potential source of treatment for human diseases. Investigators say using urine to collect and cultivate these master cells is easy and involves minimal processing.

Using proteins known as growth factors, researchers can manipulate stem cells - or master cells - to grow into any tissue in the body. Therapy using stem cells from a patient’s own body is desirable because it does not cause immune rejection, as can happen with tissues and organs from donors.  

Currently, most scientists use a complicated process to engineer regular skin and blood cells into specific cell types. That's because there are few pure sources of master cells - apart from human embryos, whose use is quite controversial.

Researchers are now finding small numbers of stem cells in urine. Anthony Atala, director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, said, “The advantage with urine is that you are getting approximately 2 liters of urine out every day. So you don’t have to keep going back and sticking the patient [with a needle] or doing biopsies on the patient.”

Reporting in the journal Stem Cells, a team from Wake Forest described how urine samples from 17 healthy individuals ranging in age from 5 to 75 contained stem cells that could be isolated, then coaxed to become smooth muscle-type cells like those that line the inside of the urethra and bladder.

Potential shown

Next, they placed the differentiated cells onto biologically-active support structures called scaffolds, made from pig intestine, then implanted the engineered tissue into mice.

After one month, the urine-derived stem cells developed biological markers of connective tissue and blood vessels, suggesting that they also had the potential to become bone, muscle, nerve or fat cells.

While urine may be a plentiful and less invasive way to obtain stem cells, some experts are skeptical about its value as a source of stem cells. Chris Mason, a regenerative medicine researcher at University College London, said there are very few usable stem cells in the liquid waste.

But he said in a Skype interview that the unusual research into urine-derived stem cells needs further scientific exploration.   

“It looks like it’s an area where we are looking at very, very early data from a few groups. And I think that before we can say for certain there are [usable stem cells in urine], one would have to have it reproduced by a number of different laboratories. So I think it’s more of a question mark and a maybe, rather than a certainty and a definitely not,” said Mason.

Researchers in China, meanwhile, report having grown tiny tooth buds from master cells found in urine. Researchers caution it is not yet clear, however, whether those buds can take root and grow into replacement teeth.

You May Like

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
August 05, 2013 1:18 AM
What kind of cells contained in urine are used to make iPs cells ?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs