We’re another step closer to made-to-order human kidneys

There’s a chronic shortage of available transplant organs, which leads to the unnecessary death of thousands of people each year. To help alleviate this situation, medical researchers and scientists are working hard to find other ways of sourcing human-compatible organs, whether by bio-printing them in a lab or figuring out ways to repurpose organs from other animals.

While there is still a ways to go for both these approaches, researchers from Japan’s National Institute for Physiological Sciences recently made a breakthrough, which could have enormous implications for future kidney transplants. In a pioneering study, they demonstrated that it is possible to grow functional mouse kidneys inside rats using donor stem cells. Initial attempts to do this had failed, since rat stem cells don’t differentiate into the two main cell types required for forming kidneys. However, the researchers got around this by injecting mouse stem cells into rat blastocysts, the cell clusters formed after an egg is fertilized. When these were implanted into developing rats, they grew into normal fetuses, but containing a pair of mouse-derived kidneys. All of these kidneys were intact and more than half were capable of producing urine.

As with other transplant organs, kidney shortage is a big problem. In the U.S. alone, 95,000 patients are on the waiting list for a donor kidney. In the case of patients with end-stage renal disease, this is their only hope of once again regaining quality of life. Could this study be potentially applicable to these people? According to Masumi Hirabayashi, one of the researchers on the project, it could. He suggests that it might be possible one day to grow human stem cell-derived organs in other animals, and then transplant them into patients.

Hirabayashi said that pigs would be the most likely host animal species for human organ regeneration — although differences in the gestation period of a pig and a human could conceivably pose challenges for the creation of fully functioning human kidneys.

“Theoretically I can expect blastocyst complementation strategy to work as well in a combination of human pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) and domestic animal blastocysts,” Hirabayashi told Digital Trends. “However, there are serious technical barriers and complex ethical issues that must be discussed and solved before producing human organs in animals.”

A paper describing the work is published in the journal Nature Communications.

Mobile

Is the 5G spectrum harmful to our health? Experts say, 'Don't freak out'

There's plenty of consumer anxiety about radiofrequency (RF) radiation, specifically around millimeter waves (mmWave) used on 5G networks, but is it based in reality? We asked the FDA to give us its official view on the subject.
Emerging Tech

Underground volcanoes could explain possible liquid water on Mars

Last year scientists discovered there could be liquid water on Mars. Now a research team argues that for there to be liquid water, there must be an underground source of heat -- and they believe underground volcanoes could be responsible.
Emerging Tech

China’s mind-controlled cyborg rats are proof we live in a cyberpunk dystopia

Neuroscience researchers from Zhejiang University, China, have created a method that allows humans to control the movements of rats using a technology called a brain-brain interface.
Emerging Tech

With CabinSense, cars will soon know who’s riding in them and respond accordingly

What if your car could know who's riding in it and customize the entertainment and safety options accordingly? That’s what's promised by the new CabinSense in-car Occupancy Monitoring System.
Emerging Tech

Photosynthesizing artificial leaf may be the air-cleaning tool we’ve dreamed of

Engineers from the University of Illinois at Chicago have invented an artificial leaf which could both clean up our air and provide a cost-effective type of fuel. Here's how it works.
Mobile

These 13 gadgets walk a fine line between ingenious and insane

The annual avalanche of devices and gadgets is astounding, but how many will succeed? A few are destined to spark new trends, while the majority fade deservedly into obscurity. We look at some gadgets on the border of brilliant and bonkers.
Emerging Tech

Global Good wants to rid the world of deadly diseases with lasers and A.I.

Global Good, a collaboration between Intellectual Ventures and Bill Gates, aims to eradicate diseases that kill children in developing nations. It tackles difficult problems with high-tech prototypes.
Emerging Tech

A.I.-powered website creates freakishly lifelike faces of people who don’t exist

No, this isn't a picture of a missing person. It's a face generated by a new artificial intelligence on the website ThisPersonDoesNotExist.com. Here's how the impressive A.I. works.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s MAVEN orbiter has a new job as a communication relay for Mars 2020

NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) orbiter has been collecting atmospheric readings but now is taking on a new job as a data relay satellite for the Mars 2020 mission that launches next year.
Emerging Tech

The 10 most expensive drones that you (a civilian) can buy

OK, these drones may be a bit beyond your budget: Check out the most expensive drones in the world, from industrial giants to highest-end filming tools.
Emerging Tech

Of all the vape pens in the world, these 5 are the best

Vaping concentrates has become significantly more popular, especially among those that use cannabis for medicinal purposes. But don’t use just any vape pen: we found these five devices to be our favorites in 2018.
Computing

The HoloLens 2 will be announced at MWC. Here's what we know about it so far

The HoloLens 2 is ripe for an announcement. Here's what Microsoft has revealed so far, what's likely in store for the next generation HoloLens, and everything that we know about this mixed reality headset.
Emerging Tech

A river of stars one billion years old flows across the southern sky

Astronomers have identified a river of stars flowing across our galaxy and covering most of the southern sky. The estimated 4000 stars that comprise the stream were born together and have been moving together for the last one billion years.
Emerging Tech

Descending at an angle could be key to landing heavier craft on Mars

Landing on Mars is a challenge: The heavier the craft, the more difficult a safe landing becomes. Scientists propose using retropropulsion engines and angling the craft to create a pressure differential to land heavier crafts in the future.