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Recycling Kidneys

Researchers are trying to use discarded donor kidneys as a scaffold for building new ones.

By | May 23, 2013

FLICKR, BEN ALEXANDERMany kidneys from deceased donors are thrown away each year due to damage. A paper published in Biomaterials earlier this month (May 13) suggests that they could be put to use as raw material for engineering new kidneys.

The study’s authors treated discarded human kidneys with a detergent, which cleared the organ of cells and left only the cells’ extracellular matrices. The eventual plan is to grow the patients’ own cells on the scaffold, producing a kidney that the patients would be less likely to reject than an ordinary transplant. “These kidneys maintain their innate three-dimensional architecture, their basic biochemistry, as well as their vessel network system,” coauthor Giuseppe Orlando, a transplant surgeon and regenerative medicine researcher at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, said in a statement.

The scientists tested the scaffold for antigens that might cause a patient to reject the organ and found that they had been eliminated along with the cells. When the researchers transplanted the modified kidneys into pigs and connected their vasculature to the pigs’ circulatory systems, blood pumped through the kidneys at normal pressure.

“With about 100,000 people in the U.S. awaiting kidney transplants, it is devastating when an organ is donated but cannot be used,” Orlando said. “These discarded organs may represent an ideal platform for investigations aimed at manufacturing kidneys for transplant.”

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