Regenerating damaged tissues using therapeutic cells may prove to be a promising new approach to treat chronic kidney disease, scientists say.
Researchers from the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) in the US found that harnessing the unique properties of human amniotic fluid-derived stem cells could potentially help recover organ function in a pre-clinical model of kidney disease.
“Our results indicate that this type of stem cell could be used as an off the shelf universal cell source and may provide an alternative therapeutic strategy for patients suffering from this chronic and debilitating disease,” said James J Yoo, a professor at WFIRM.
Amniotic fluid-derived stem cells can be used as a universal cell source because they have the ability to become different cell types as well as the ability to be anti-inflammatory, making them a potential source for regeneration. Unlike pluripotent and adult stem cells, amniotic fluid-derived stem cells are not as likely to provoke an immune system response.
Their use does not lead to risks of tumours or ethical concerns, as with embryonic stem cells, researchers said. The study, published in the journal Tissue Engineering Part A, found that amniotic fluid stem cells injected into a diseased kidney in a pre-clinical model led to improvement of kidney function based on measured waste levels after 10 weeks.
Biopsy findings showed reduced damage to the cluster of capillaries where waste products are filtered from the blood. “Our studies demonstrate that treatment with amniotic fluid stem cells had positive effects on functional improvement and structural recovery of the kidney,” said WFIRM Director Anthony Atala.
Kidney disease is a worldwide public health problem and can manifest in acute and chronic symptoms, researchers said. Transplantation is the only definitive treatment method that restores kidney function, but has its own challenges with rejection and life-long immunosuppression. There also are not enough donor organs to meet demand.
“It remains to be seen whether injecting more cells or more efficient engraftment of the infused cells enhances improvement of organ function,” said Sunil George, a WFIRM research fellow