Will Dialysis Become a Thing of the Past? Sheba Medical Center Nephrologist in Israel Discovers Kidneys can be Rejuvenated

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An innovative study led by Prof. Benjamin Dekel of Sheba Medical Center could make dialysis a defunct treatment through the development of advanced technology that allows for the generation of new kidney tissue to replace damaged tissue.

Diagram of Prof. Dekel's research

The ability to generate new kidney tissue that could replace the damaged tissue might help millions of patients worldwide who suffer from kidney disease.

A new study that has the potential to eliminate the future need for dialysis discovers that it is possible to rejuvenate kidneys and improve their function by using the patient's own stem cells. This groundbreaking study was conducted by Professor Benjamin Dekel, head of Pediatric Nephrology and the Pediatric Stem Cell Research Institute in the Edmond and Lily Safra Children's hospital at Sheba Medical Center, Tel HaShomer in Israel. Prof. Dekel’s study was published in the prestigious CELL REPORTS journal this week.

“This treatment is aimed at the millions of patients who have yet to require dialysis treatment, and focuses on improving stabilizing their renal function in order to avoid the need for dialysis,” stated Prof. Dekel.

Previously, researchers have found that the adult kidney can constantly renew itself over time through the activity of colonies of cells that function to replace lost and degenerated cells in the kidney.

Prof. Dekel and his research team have now developed a new technology that allows for the extraction of such healthy kidney cells from diseased kidneys. These cells are expanded into large numbers within a laboratory environment, and after generation of three-dimensional cultures called "kidney spheres," they show improved function in generating new kidney tissue and replacing lost cells. The cells are administrated into the kidney, allowing them to rebuild the organ, positively influence neighboring cells and improve the kidney’s function (see scheme).

The newly developed technology relies on the patient's own cells, thereby circumventing problems associated with immune rejection.

Thus far, this method has been tested on mice, where the cells have shown their ability to generate new renal structures and because of that are retained for a long time once administered into the host kidney. This resulted in improved renal function in treated mice.

These astounding results are expected to be further studied in clinical trials in patients with renal failure by 'KidneyCure Bio,' which commercialized this technology.

Prof. Benjamin Dekel, who led the project said, "The breakthrough in this technology, which was developed at Sheba Medical Center, is not only in the ability to maintain the kidney renewing cells outside the body, but also in the fact that we are able to multiply them to generate large numbers of cells and make them work properly using the 3D cultures. This is important news for patients with chronic kidney disease, which hopefully could benefit from these discoveries in following years. The ability to generate new kidney tissue that could replace the damaged tissue might help millions of patients worldwide who suffer from kidney disease.”

The groundbreaking research was carried out by Senior Researchers Dr. Orit Harari-Steinberg, Dr. Dorit Omer, and Ms. Yehudit Gnatek from the Pediatric Stem Cell Research Institute under the leadership of Prof. Dekel.

Collaborators include:
Dr. Zohar Dotan, Head of Uro-Oncology Service from the Urology Department, Sheba Medical Center
Dr. Tomer Kalisky and co-workers, Bar Ilan University
Prof. Yaron Fuchs and co-workers, The Technion

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