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Using stem and progenitor cells to recapitulate kidney development and restore renal function

Murray, Patricia A.a; Woolf, Adrian S.b

Current Opinion in Organ Transplantation: April 2014 - Volume 19 - Issue 2 - p 140–144
doi: 10.1097/MOT.0000000000000052

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.

aInstitute of Translational Medicine, University of Liverpool, Liverpool

bInstitute of Human Development, Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester Academic Health Science Centre and the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital, Manchester, UK

Correspondence to Professor Adrian S. Woolf, Michael Smith Building, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PT, UK. Tel: +44 161 275 1534; e-mail:

© 2014 Wolters Kluwer Health | Lippincott Williams & Wilkins