APR 07, 2019 8:50 AM PDT

Researchers Use Urine Cells to Create Kidney Organoids

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Cells growing in culture and animal models are useful in research studies, but scientists have also been creating miniature versions of human organs, called organoids, to investigate biology and disease. Now researchers at Utrecht University, University Medical Center Utrecht and Hubrecht Institute have used cells found in urine to generate organoids that model the kidney. Not only can these organoids be used for research, but they can also be made from patient samples so that individual cases and potential treatments can be studied in the lab to find the best fit for the patient. The work has been reported in Nature Biotechnology.

These lab-made kidney organoids can be created from adult stem cells and urine cells harvested from patients. While these are small and simple models, they still have many of the same features seen in normal kidneys.

“We can use these mini kidneys to model various disorders: hereditary kidney diseases, infections, and cancer. This allows us to study in detail what exactly is going wrong,” said Hans Clevers, Professor of Molecular Genetics at Utrecht University and the University Medical Center Utrecht, and group leader at the Hubrecht Institute. “This helps us to understand the workings of healthy kidneys better, and hopefully, in the future, we will be able to develop treatments for kidney disorders.”

A kidney organoid. / Credit: Anne Rios (Princess Maxima Centre) in Nature Biotechnology

Patients that have to receive a kidney transplant are also at risk of getting a viral infection for which there is no treatment.

“In the lab, we can give a mini kidney a viral infection which some patients contract following a kidney transplant,” noted Professor of Experimental Nephrology at UMC Utrecht, Marianne Verhaar. “We can then establish whether this infection can be cured using a specific drug. And we can also use mini kidneys created from the tissue of a patient with kidney cancer to study cancer.” 

In this study, the researchers also used their technique to develop organoids using a urine sample from a cystic fibrosis patient; their efforts improved treatment efficacy for the patient.

This work was the product of efforts by a team of researchers, clinicians, and technical experts. “Collaborating in this way has made a huge difference to our research. We hope that, together, we can improve treatments for kidney patients. In the long term, we hope to be able to use mini kidneys to create a real, functioning kidney - a tailor-made kidney - too. But that's still a long way,” added Verhaar.

Learn more about organoids from the video.

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via Utrecht University, Nature Biotechnology

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
APR 22, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Scientists Learn More About Disease-Related Airway Cells
APR 22, 2021
Scientists Learn More About Disease-Related Airway Cells
Research has found that in several human disorders that impact breathing, including two that affect infants, there is an ...
APR 28, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Learning More About the Sugars That Mediate Immune Interactions
APR 28, 2021
Learning More About the Sugars That Mediate Immune Interactions
Sugar is something sweet to add to your food, but just like fat, different types of sugars play important roles in biolo ...
MAY 02, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Coral Cells Can Spit Out the Symbionts They Don't Want
MAY 02, 2021
Coral Cells Can Spit Out the Symbionts They Don't Want
Some microalgae are symbionts, like dinoflagellates that live in coral. A symbiotic sea anemone is seen in this image by ...
JUN 03, 2021
Microbiology
How HIV Can Deplete White Matter in the Brain
JUN 03, 2021
How HIV Can Deplete White Matter in the Brain
The brain is sometimes called grey matter, which is made up of neurons. But it also contains white matter, which are neu ...
JUN 04, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Even When They're Outside the Brain, Infections Worsen Alzheimer's
JUN 04, 2021
Even When They're Outside the Brain, Infections Worsen Alzheimer's
It's thought that inflammation is closely connected to cognitive decline, and neuroinflammation plays a role role in the ...
JUN 07, 2021
Cardiology
Researchers Find a Way to Improve Outcomes After a Heart Attack
JUN 07, 2021
Researchers Find a Way to Improve Outcomes After a Heart Attack
It's thought that in the United States, there is a heart attack once every 40 seconds, or that each year, about 80,0 ...
Loading Comments...