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Bioengineered Kidney Scaffold Developed and Implanted

Cross-section of kidney (National Library of Medicine)

Cross-section of kidney (National Library of Medicine)

Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina have devised a framework for building new kidneys for eventual transplant, and tested the scaffold in pigs. The results are described online in the journal Annals of Surgery (paid subscription required).

The goal of the proof-of-concept study was to develop a framework for a replacement kidney that would be used to grow cells for a new kidney for human patients. This framework would consist of only the minimum organ structure, on which a patient’s own cells could grow, minimizing the risk of rejection.

The Wake Forest research team used a pig’s kidney to produce the framework. Organ structures from pigs to help human patients is not a new idea; pig heart valves, without cells, are now in use to provide heart valve replacements for human patients.

The team soaked pig kidneys in a detergent to remove kidney cells, while keeping the skeletal structure and system of blood vessels intact. Giuseppe Orlando, faculty member and first author of the paper, noted that the resulting kidneys “maintain their innate three-dimensional architecture, as well as their vascular system, and may represent the ideal platform for kidney engineering.”

Orlando and colleagues tested the the scaffolds by implanting them in pigs, and the implanted kidney scaffolds were able to maintain their normal structure. After refilling with blood, the scaffolds were also able to maintain normal blood pressure, which suggests the removal of cells does not effect the strength of the vessels in framework.

Nonetheless, some problems were encountered, namely inflammation in some regions of the kidney and thrombosis (blood clots) in the implanted vascular system.

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