In a breakthrough discovery that could revolutionize transplants, British researchers have managed to create human kidneys from stem cells, which could lead to transplant patients growing their own organs; the artificial organs were created using human amniotic fluid and animal foetal cells.
The kidneys are now about half of centimeter long, which is about what you would expect to find in an unborn baby, but researchers from the Edinburgh University believe they will grow into full size organs when transplanted in a human body. Basically, the patients could create their own organs, thus eliminating the risk of rejection.
Physiologist Jamie Davies, a professor of experimental anatomy at Edinburgh University, said:
''It sounds a bit science fiction-like but it's not. The idea is to start with human stem cells and end up with a functioning organ. We have made pretty good progress with that. We can make something that has the complexity of a normal, foetal kidney.''
Researchers hope that doctors will be allowed to collect amniotic fluid which surrounds the baby in the womb, at birth; the fluid will then be stored, and used when needed. After all, that fluid could create another kidney.
The technology is only 10 years from us, according to the researchers, but the mentality is perhaps decades away.
''Freezing a few cells is cost-effective compared with the cost of keeping someone on dialysis for years.
''If you have got a bunch of stem cells sitting in a test tube, that is a long way from being a beautifully, anatomically organised organ like a kidney, which is quite a complicated structure. So we are working on how you turn cells floating about in liquid into something as precisely arranged as a kidney.''