Purpose of review: There is considerable interest in the idea of generating stem and precursor cells that can differentiate into kidney cells and be used to treat kidney diseases. Within this field, we highlight recent research articles focussing on mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), embryonic stem cells (ESCs), induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and kidney-derived stem/progenitor cells (KSPCs).
Recent findings: In preclinical studies, MSCs ameliorate varied acute and chronic kidney diseases. Their efficacy depends on immunomodulatory and paracrine properties but MSCs do not differentiate into functional kidney epithelia. iPSCs can be derived from healthy individuals and from kidney patients by forced expression of precursor genes. Like ESCs, iPSCs are pluripotent and so theoretically they have the potential to form functional kidney epithelia when used therapeutically. KSPCs, existing as cell subsets within adult and developing kidneys, constitute attractive future therapeutic agents.
Summary: Results from preclinical studies are encouraging but caution is required regarding potential human therapeutic applications because molecular, morphological and functional characterization of ‘kidney cells’ generated from ECSs, iPSCs, KSPCs have not been exhaustive. The long-term safety of renal stem and precursor cells needs more study, including potential negative effects on renal growth and their potential for tumor formation.