‘Mini-kidneys in a Petri Dish’ Successfully Grown from Stem Cells

October 29, 2015 ZEISS Microscopy

Miniature kidney organoids made visible with ZEISS LSM 780 high-end confocal microscope

Researchers from Murdoch Childrens Research Institute have perfected a method of turning stem cells into mini-kidneys for use in drug screening, disease modelling and cell therapy. Professor Melissa Little and her team first grew a mini-kidney in a dish in 2013 and were able to form two key cell types, but the team have now been able to grow an organ that forms all the different cell types normally present in the human kidney. Their work is presented on the cover of the October 22 issue of Nature.

 

Co-authors Dr Minoru Takasato and Professor Melissa Little, and colleagues. Courtesy of MCRI.
Co-authors Dr Minoru Takasato and Professor Melissa Little, and colleagues. Courtesy of MCRI.

By adding different concentrations of growth factors at various times, researchers were able to guide the formation of the mini organ in a process that mimicked normal development. The mini-kidney the team produced is similar to the kidney of embryo developing foetus. Researchers say the advancement will also mean they can now tweak this process to optimise the amount of each cell type present. The breakthrough could allow the use of mini-organs to screen drugs either for the treatment of kidney disease or to find out if a new drug is likely to injure the kidney.

Image of a mini-kidney formed in a dish from human induced pluripotent stem cells. The three colours show the presence of distinct cell types within the developing nephrons. Courtesy of Minoru Takasato, MCRI.
Image of a mini-kidney formed in a dish from human induced pluripotent stem cells. The three colours show the presence of distinct cell types within the developing nephrons. Courtesy of Minoru Takasato, MCRI.

“The mini-kidney we have been able to grow is very complex and more like the real organ. This is important for drug testing as we hope they will respond to the drugs as a normal organ might,” Professor Little said. “Creating a model kidney containing many different kidney cell types also opens the door for cell therapy and even bioengineering of replacement kidneys. One day this may mean new treatments for patients with kidney failure.”

 

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Importantly, the new method means researchers can make a miniature model kidney from any person, starting with cells such as skin or blood. “Making stem cells from patients with kidney disease, and then growing a mini-kidney that matches the patient, will help us understand that patient’s disease and develop treatments for them”. The finding will also allow researchers to learn more about how the human kidney forms normally.

 

The study, which was published online on October 7 in Nature and made the cover in the October 22 print issue was conducted in conjunction with the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at The University of Queensland, as well as researchers from the Netherlands. Confocal imaging and optical sectioning of the organoids was performed with a ZEISS LSM 780 confocal microscope.

 

Related Information:

 

About Murdoch Childrens Research Institute

Murdoch Childrens undertakes research into infant, child and adolescent health.  As the largest child health research institute in Australia, our 1500 researchers are working hard to translate the knowledge we create from our research into effective prevention, early intervention and treatments for children.  MCRI strives for a healthier community, fewer sick kids visiting hospitals, and the best possible care for children who unfortunately become ill. The Murdoch Childrens has a proud history of scientific discovery since its inception in 1986, and is currently based at The Royal Children’s Hospital in Parkville, Melbourne.

 

Article reproduced with kind permission by Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.

 

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