German researchers collect kidney stem cells from urine to help with transplants

February 10, 2020

Kidney patients may be resigned to a transplant at some point, but the procedure is pretty invasive and donors are hard to come by. Recently, researchers from Heinrich Heine University (HHU) in Düsseldorf, Germany, have discovered a non-invasive way to isolate renal stem cells – those that can differentiate into all the cell types in kidneys – from urine samples. This is a welcome option, as previously, renal stem cells could only be obtained through a biopsy.

In the new study, the researchers took samples from 10 people of both sexes and a variety of ages, and isolated what are known as urine-derived renal progenitor cells (UdRPCs). They found that the UdrPCs were able to differentiate into the various kidney cell types and expressed known kidney stem cell markers. The UdRPCs also seemed to have similarities to stem cells found in bone marrow and amniotic fluid.Sourcing stem cells from the bone marrow involves a tricky and painful procedure, or can only be harvested immediately after a patient gives birth.

“It is fascinating that these valuable cells can be isolated from urine and that we were able to confirm their properties as kidney and kidney progenitor cells by comparing the gene expression of these cells with cells from kidney biopsies,” says an excited Wasco Wruck, of HHU’s medical faculty.

The findings could translate to new treatments for kidney diseases: doctors could take urine samples from the patient, collect their UdRPCs, culture a new batch of kidney stem cells, and transplant those instead of looking for organ donors, and facing possible transplant rejections.

In addition, the researchers were able to reprogram the UdRPCs into another form called induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSCs), which can be used to make virtually any cells in the body. IPSCs are normally obtained from blood or skin samples, but taking them from urine could be even easier.


Category: Education, Features

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