Skip to main content

Using stem cells, scientists just successfully grew a kidney organoid for the first time

Kidney transplant waiting list dialysis surgery
Image used with permission by copyright holder
Stem cell science has been a highly controversial topic over the years, but it may be well on its way to revolutionizing the high fatality rate expected for those on waitlists for vital organ donations. Stem cells have been particularly successful in this research because they can be scientifically bred into nearly any type of cell that occurs in the body. This key component means that crucial organs grown from stem cells would make urgent transplants viable without having to wait for donors that match a particular blood type or demographic bracket.

Since most humans can live with just one functioning kidney instead of two, transplants are often sourced from within family units or from personal relations when a patient is in urgent need. Unfortunately, that still doesn’t change the fact that, on average, 21 people die every day waiting for organ transplants because waitlists are too long or patient-donor matches can’t be found in time, according to the American Transplant Foundation.

Like the many systems that make up the human body, most organs use complex systems to successfully serve their intended function. Due to this complexity, scientists haven’t quite figured out how to grow fully functional kidney quite yet, but with the help of stem cells, researchers have recently managed to grow organoid tissue that resembles a kidney in early development.

To brush up on your biology, keep in mind that the kidneys function as a sort of filtration system for the blood. The intricate system of tubular structures (called nephrons) that make up a healthy human kidney is incredibly complex in nature, since it combines U-shaped loops, mostly straight tubes, and interconnecting pieces to complete the system. Until now, scientists have faced the prohibitive challenge of growing all these different nephrons from the same initial batch of stem cells.

In the lab, researchers discovered that stem cells developed into different shaped nephrons, collecting ducts, and other elements of healthy kidney organs, based on their exposure to specific signaling molecules. By controlling the amount of time a any section of a single stem cell source was exposed to these molecules, the scientists were able to develop a kidney organoid that doesn’t resemble a fully developed human kidney, but instead looks more like a kidney that would develop in a fetus during the first trimester of pregnancy.

It looks like it will be a long time before scientists can grow fully functional, healthy human organs for transplant, all from stem cells. Nonetheless, these newly-developed organoids resemble kidney function closely enough that researchers will be able to use the stem-cell grown tissue samples to test pharmaceuticals, further study kidney function and related diagnoses, and even develop therapeutic solutions for diseases and specific pathogens.

Editors' Recommendations

Chloe Olewitz
Chloe is a writer from New York with a passion for technology, travel, and playing devil's advocate. You can find out more…
The best portable power stations
EcoFlow DELTA 2 on table at campsite for quick charging.

Affordable and efficient portable power is a necessity these days, keeping our electronic devices operational while on the go. But there are literally dozens of options to choose from, making it abundantly difficult to decide which mobile charging solution is best for you. We've sorted through countless portable power options and came up with six of the best portable power stations to keep your smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other gadgets functioning while living off the grid.
The best overall: Jackery Explorer 1000

Jackery has been a mainstay in the portable power market for several years, and today, the company continues to set the standard. With three AC outlets, two USB-A, and two USB-C plugs, you'll have plenty of options for keeping your gadgets charged.

Read more
CES 2023: HD Hyundai’s Avikus is an A.I. for autonomous boat and marine navigation
Demonstration of NeuBoat level 2 autonomous navigation system at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show

This content was produced in partnership with HD Hyundai.
Autonomous vehicle navigation technology is certainly nothing new and has been in the works for the better part of a decade at this point. But one of the most common forms we see and hear about is the type used to control steering in road-based vehicles. That's not the only place where technology can make a huge difference. Autonomous driving systems can offer incredible benefits to boats and marine vehicles, too, which is precisely why HD Hyundai has unveiled its Avikus AI technology -- for marine and watercraft vehicles.

More recently, HD Hyundai participated in the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, to demo its NeuBoat level 2 autonomous navigation system for recreational boats. The name mashes together the words "neuron" and "boat" and is quite fitting since the Avikus' A.I. navigation tech is a core component of the solution, it will handle self-recognition, real-time decisions, and controls when on the water. Of course, there are a lot of things happening behind the scenes with HD Hyundai's autonomous navigation solution, which we'll dive into below -- HD Hyundai will also be introducing more about the tech at CES 2023.

Read more
This AI cloned my voice using just three minutes of audio
acapela group voice cloning ad

There's a scene in Mission Impossible 3 that you might recall. In it, our hero Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) tackles the movie's villain, holds him at gunpoint, and forces him to read a bizarre series of sentences aloud.

"The pleasure of Busby's company is what I most enjoy," he reluctantly reads. "He put a tack on Miss Yancy's chair, and she called him a horrible boy. At the end of the month, he was flinging two kittens across the width of the room ..."

Read more