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A piece of human kidneys grown in mice

Human stem cells turned into mice in the kidney nephron that filters the blood like a real kidney.


Glomeruli-the glomeruli of the nephrons and tubules extending from them. (Photo by eLife – the journal / Flickr.com)

Scheme of structure of nephron: in the top (cortical) layer of the kidney visible balls of capillaries in the capsule, from which depart tubules, making a loop in the deeper layers of the kidney. (Photo: Incitatus / Flickr.com) ‹

In recent times we often hear about the so-called organelles – tiny organs (or organ parts), grown in vitro using cellular technology. This can be a small piece of the pancreas along with insulinonezawisimy cells, or epithelial villi of the intestine, or microscopic fragment of the stomach, or even a piece of cortex. Despite its tiny size, these organelles possess a complex structure – they consist of different types of cells, which are located just like in this body and can fulfil the same function .

Researchers from the University of Manchester reported in the article Stem Cell Reports that they managed to create thus a piece of human kidney. Under the piece here is meant nephron – structural and functional unit of the kidney.

In the nephron from the blood is first filtered all unwanted substances and excess water, and then the blood sucked back the nutrients that were in waste, and partially to water; the result is a relatively concentrated urine. The nephron looks like a ball with departing from it long tubules; the glomeruli or glomerulus is a bundle of capillary in the epithelial capsule where it is filtered the blood. From the capsule departs the long tubule, which is differently arranged and differently called throughout its length; in canalize, as we just said, some substances back into the blood (and some continue to go from the blood into the urine).

As you can see, the nephron is a rather complex structure, however, Susan Kimber (Susan J. Kimber) and her colleagues have managed to make it in the laboratory. Construction steel material of human stem cells – those that are called pluripotent and can become any types of cells. In the culture medium, they were added signaling molecules that direct cellular development in the renal side. To cells growing compactly and to easily transplanted mice, they were kept in a gel-like substance.

After some time, the lumps of gel with cells was implanted under the skin of animals (we should clarify that mice pre-weakened immunity, so he can’t attack on foreign elements – transplanted cells were in fact human). After three months, researchers found mice nephrons, which was epithelial capsule with the blood capillaries, and superior canaliculi. When mice were injected with a dye so that it fell into the capillaries “micropocket” – that dye soon filtered out of the blood, in other words, organoid worked like a real one.

However, it should be clarified that in mice appeared only a few hundred of the nephron, whereas in a real kidney are about a million. And, although “micropack” connected to the blood vessels of the mouse, the connection was not the same as that of the normal kidney: the nephron have not been able to connect to major arteries, and therefore blood filtration was not at full strength. Finally, this kidney has a system for collection and discharge of urine, which then again was not.

However, researchers have not yet had the goal to grow a complete organ, and it would be impossible to do in mice. It is important that there is managed to create the structural element of the kidney that performs the main job and which can be explored in person, so to speak, in their natural habitat.

Moreover, it is hoped that in the future, is not limited only to research purposes, and that a healthy kidney for patients, it will be possible to grow entirely or at least partly – directly in the laboratory.

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