Patients with end-stage renal disease have one hope for leading a normal life: a kidney transplant. The problem is that the waitlist for a donor kidney is 95,000 strong, in the U.S. alone. A recent MedicalXpress article says these patients in need may soon be able to grow their own kidneys. The concept isn’t that outlandish—a team of researchers at the National Institute for Physiological Sciences in Japan grew mouse kidneys inside rats using just a few donor stem cells.
The researchers took blastocysts from mutant animals missing specific organs and injected them with stem cells from normal donors. Despite the donor cells being from a different species, they still differentiated to form the missing organ in the resulting animal. The new, fully functioning organs provide proof-of-concept that the method could be used to generate human kidneys inside livestock to ease the pressure on organ supply.