The bioengineered kidney: science or science fiction?

Document Type


Publication Date



Center for Molecular Medicine

Journal Title

Current opinion in nephrology and hypertension

MeSH Headings

Animals, Bioengineering, Cell Differentiation, Endothelial Cells, Humans, Kidney, Kidney Failure, Chronic, Kidney Transplantation, Kidney Tubules, Kidney Tubules, Collecting, Organ Culture Techniques, Podocytes, Stem Cells, Tissue Engineering, Tissue Scaffolds


PURPOSE OF REVIEW: This article gives an overview of important new advances relating to kidney bioengineering.

RECENT FINDINGS: Directed differentiation studies have shown that proximal tubules, distal tubules, podocytes, collecting ducts, interstitium and endothelial cells can be generated from patient-derived stem cells using standardized protocols. One caveat to the interpretation of these studies is that the physiological characteristics of differentiated cells remain to be defined. Another important area of progress is scaffolding. Both decellularized organs and polymeric materials are being used as platforms for three-dimensional growth of kidney tissue, and key distinctions between these approaches are discussed.

SUMMARY: In the past 3 years, it has become clear that building kidney tissue is feasible. The laboratory-grown kidney is an attainable goal if efforts are focused on refining directed differentiation procedures to optimize cell function and on developing scaffolding strategies that ensure physiological function at the tissue level.



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