Growing organs for science

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Growing organs for science

Stem cell artist's impression

Stem cell artist's impression

Image from Pixabay CC0

Stem cell artist's impression

Image from Pixabay CC0

Image from Pixabay CC0

Stem cell artist's impression

Jacob Vantuil, ECU Reporter

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Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) is finding a way to treat kidney diseases, using gene-editing technology and stem cell kidney-regeneration research.

They aim to correct serious gene mutations in lab-grown “mini kidneys”.

According to a study published by The American Journal of Human Genetics, that involved researchers based at hospitals and laboratories in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, stem cells from a child with a genetic kidney disease were grown into two sets of living mini-kidney organoids – one with her kidney disease and one in which her gene mutation was corrected.

This is the first time in Australia a patient has had kidneys regenerated from stem cells. The results of the research will aid in furthering the understanding and treatment of genetic kidney disease.

The cells were created from a skin biopsy taken from 12-year-old Alexandria, who suffers from Mainzer-Saldino Syndrome, a rare genetic condition causing progressive retinal degeneration and end-stage kidney disease.

The study outlined that replica kidneys could be grown from stem cells to both carry and not carry the genetic fault.

Researchers were able to use gene-editing technology to correct the genetic mutation in Alexandria’s stem cells and stopped the development of the disease within the mini-kidney.

What are stem cells?

Separated into two categories stem cells can be labelled as Adult (Somatic) stem cells or Embryonic stem cells.

According to Stem Cells Australia, embryonic stem cells are, “the most primitive type of stem cell and can generate every type of cell in the human body. This remarkable ability has seen these stem cells used extensively by researchers around the world.

“Somatic stem cells are found throughout the body and exist to divide in order to replenish dying cells and regenerate damaged tissues.

“Adult stem cells, like embryonic stem cells, have the ability to become more than one type of cell, however, unlike embryonic stem cells, they are often restricted to lineages.”

What is gene editing?

According to research from, gene-editing or genome-editing is a way of making specific changes to the DNA of a cell or organism.

An enzyme cuts the DNA at a specific sequence, and when repaired by the cell, a change is made.

Changing the sequence of DNA in a cell would hypothetically allow scientists to change a stem cell into any cell needed to repair damaged tissues within the human body.

This also includes editing cells which have encountered a mutation and correcting the genetic code in order to replace the mutated cells with healthy, correctly functioning ones.

This is the basis of the MCRI’s latest research for treating kidney disease.

According to an article from the National Centre of Biotechnology Information: “The most complex organs to engineer are solid structures, such as the kidney, liver and pancreas, which are challenging because they are dense with cells and have high requirements for oxygen.

The MCRI researchers said: “By growing mini-kidneys from a patient’s stem cells, we’re hoping to find new genes responsible for kidney disease. We also hope we can test them for possible new treatments for that patient’s specific disease.”

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About the Writer
Jacob Vantuil, Reporter

Jacob Van Tuil is a third year Media and Communication, Film and Broadcasting, student. His goal is to change the traditional way media is delivered to...

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Growing organs for science