Written by Hafsah Ganatra
Currently, there are 31 million reported adults in the United States with chronic kidney disease, a number that has only been increasing . Of those suffering from this possibly fatal disease, an estimated 2.6 million people receive dialysis or kidney transplants per year. And while many may require these transplants or suggested dialysis treatments, often such medical aid is not easily attainable. With this in mind, the medical research team at the University of Manchester have managed to cross a milestone by managing to create functioning kidney tissue from stem cells, giving hope for those affected .
From filtering to signaling and stabilizing, the kidney works as a regulation mechanism to control the body's balance of fluids and waste. A few of the main function of kidneys includes acting like a filter by removing waste and monitoring fluids in the body. The kidney also supervises the construction of hemoglobin within the body and controls hormones that work in regulating blood pressure . With kidney disease, many health problems arise that can lead to a collapse in the body’s essential functions and mechanisms, eventually leading to a breakdown of other organs as well. Chronic kidney disease can lead to kidney failure and heart disease, as well as developing a higher likelihood of experiencing a heart attack or stroke .
With such negative effects of this prevailing disease, strong efforts have been made to advance the current field of research regarding kidneys. In a recent historical breakthrough, a study conducted by Sue Kimber and Adrian Woolf from the University of Manchester found a method to develop functioning kidney tissue within mice. The researchers were able to culture human stem cells from the kidney within the lab before injecting the cells into mice, checking the mice again after 12 weeks . After close analysis, the scientists noticed that in the brief period nephrons, “the microscopic structural and functional units of the kidney” had been produced within the mice . A fluorescent signal was then sent to trace the relative function that the kidney tissue was able to produce, and it was found that the newly created kidney tissue cells were able to filter and remove waste like urine .
Despite the clear advancement made by this study, a few limitations from the research remain. For example, the full percentage of produced function is still unknown and essential parts of the kidney, such as the large artery, were not developed . Nevertheless, the progress may encompass a new hope for the future of kidney transplants and the treatment for kidney disease. While more research is still needed, perhaps this marks the turning point in in which we come closer to discovering better treatments for kidney disease.
. “2015 Kidney Disease Statistics.” KidneyFund.org, American Kidney Fund, 2015.
 Kimberly, S., Woolf, A., Tengku, F., Forster, D. 2018. Generation of Functioning Nephrons by Implanting Human Pluripotent Stem Cell-Derived Kidney Progenitors. Stem Cell Reports. 10: 1-14.
 “How Your Kidneys Work.” The National Kidney Foundation, National Kidney Foundation, 10 May 2017.
 “Kidney Disease Statistics for the United States.” National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1 Dec. 2016.
 “Scientists Create Functioning Kidney Tissue.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily. 9 Feb. 2018.