Stem cells from adult bone marrow can, as well as replacing blood cells, differentiate into liver, heart, muscle, nerve and lung cells. Findings published earlier this month (August 2001) add another string to their bow: showing that these cells also have the potential to become kidney cells. In particular they can become the type of cells — tubular epithelial cells — that need replacing in patients with acute or chronic renal disease.

Enthused by the discovery, Nick Wright, head of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund's (ICRF) Histopathology Unit and one of the authors of the paper in the Journal of Pathology argues that doctors might eventually be able to use stem cells taken from a patient's own bone marrow to differentiate into kidney cells and use them to replace tissue damaged by cancer and other diseases, thus reducing the risk of a rejection in a transplant.

The aspiration...

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