High blood pressure and the second type of diabetes, along with atherosclerosis, smoking and high levels of blood sugar and lipids are pandemic health issues of the modern world and all of them may damage kidney tissue and lead to chronic kidney disease. If that happens, two only treatment options medicine offers are dialysis and organ transplant. Hence, there’s an ongoing searching for new treatment options with stem cell kidney transplant being under the spotlight as a potential alternative to currently used treatments.
Specific traits of kidney tissue
Kidneys perform several crucial roles in our body. Their main function is to filtrate urine reabsorbing necessary substances and eliminating toxins and metabolic products. This process regulates mineral, electrolyte and salt balance in the blood. Also, kidneys secrete some essential hormones and have a primary role in maintaining regular blood pressure and blood volume. One of the specific traits of kidneys’ organization is that these organs are built of several different types of cells. Dominant element is nephrons with their system of tubules and channels for excretion. This diversity of cell kidneys are constructed of causes a wide range of kidney diseases emerging from various types of cells. This diversity also makes it difficult for scientists to come up with a uniform treatment for acute or chronic kidney failure, because treatment has to be adjusted according to the type of cells that are the primary cause of the illness.
What can stem cell kidney transplant do?
It’s important to mention that up till now scientists still haven’t found true stem cells in kidney tissue. Several cell types have been identified for some characteristics that are similar to bone marrow stem cells and indicate the potential of these cells to act as stem cells. Currently, two main types of cells are being investigated for their potential to stimulate kidney tissue to naturally regenerates. The first type of cells are so-called mesenchymal stem cells, quite similar to bone marrow stem cells and found around nephrons. The other type of cells refers to induced pluripotent stem cells. These cells are capable of developing into pretty much any type of tissue, the same as embryonic cells act, and this is being used in many labs with a goal to create nephron-like structures transplantable into the regular kidney. Since chronic kidney disease can last for years silently before expressing in dramatic symptoms of kidney failure and forcing the patient into dialysis or transplant, the idea is to use these stem cells to create artificial nephrons and to use them to compensate lost or damaged nephrons and restore kidney function at least to the 50% of normal.
Limitations of stem cell kidney transplant
Currently, the best chances for successful treatment has the strategy of implementing mesenchymal or pluripotent cells to stimulate natural regenerative processes in kidney tissue. However, this approach isn’t effective in patients who have lost more than 70% of their kidney function. They need direct replacement of damaged tissue with a new one, but that procedure is still out of our technical capacity.