The growing kidney

Upfront is a quick look at the latest developments from Stanford Medicine

Researchers previously thought kidneys stopped growing after childhood. That meant if a kidney was damaged, the harm was permanent.

Now, however, researchers at the Stanford Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine and the Sackler School of Medicine in Israel have discovered that kidneys grow continually.

“This research tells us that the kidney is in no way a static organ,” says Benjamin Dekel, MD, PhD, a senior author of the paper and associate professor of pediatrics at Sackler and head of the Pediatric Stem Cell Research Institute at the Sheba Medical Center in Israel. “The kidney, incredibly, rejuvenates itself and continues to generate specialized kidney cells all the time.”

The findings mean scientists could strive to create kidney parts in the lab and develop new methods of treating kidney disease. The study was published in Cell Reports.

The discovery won’t revolutionize kidney treatment overnight, the researchers say. They still face many hurdles, including learning how to control the growth of a variety of cells simultaneously. Dekel says they won’t be able to manufacture an entire kidney in the near future.

Stanford authors include lead author Yuval Rinkevich, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar, and co-senior author Irving Weissman, MD, professor of pathology and of developmental biology and director of the Stanford institute.

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