Urine-derived Stem Cells May Prove Therapeutic for Kidney Failure

Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine scientists have been researching the therapeutic potential of human urine-derived stem cells related to chronic kidney disease, and have demonstrated their potential protective effect in preventing progression to end-stage kidney disease.
Drug-induced toxicity in the kidneys can occur in patients with pre-existing kidney dysfunction or deficiency of blood in one or both kidneys, potentially leading to chronic kidney disease and end-stage disease. The goal of this study was to demonstrate the therapeutic potential of urine-derived stem cells to treat chronic kidney disease caused by these conditions. 
Cell therapy has emerged as a promising therapeutic approach for the treatment of chronic kidney disease. WFIRM researchers were the first to identify that stem cells exist in human urine and have the potential for tissue regenerative effects, thus the search for clinical applications. 
Finding a treatment to prevent chronic kidney disease from progressing to end-stage kidney disease could have a major impact on this public health concern. More than 30 million adults in the United States are estimated to have chronic kidney disease. Causes of the disease vary, however, drug-induced toxicity in the kidneys has been an increasingly recognized complication of many therapeutic agents in the clinical setting. Currently, dialysis and kidney transplantation are both effective treatments for end stage disease; however, dialysis is expensive with many potential complications while transplant is limited by the number organ donors available.
“The research showed that injection of urine-derived stem cells significantly improved kidney function, making clear that these cells could have a positive impact on chronic kidney disease therapy,” said lead study author Yuanyuan Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of regenerative medicine at WFIRM. 

For the study, published recently in the International Journal of Biological Sciences, the researchers collected and expanded urine-derived stem cells and induced a preclinical chronic kidney disease model. A cell suspension of urine-derived stem cells was injected into one group while a buffer solution commonly used in biological research that helps maintain a constant pH was injected into another group. A third group acted as the control group. Kidney function was evaluated through blood and urine samples.
In the urine-derived stem cell treated model, researchers saw a protective effect on the nephrons – the individual working units of the kidney – and reduced scaring and inflammatory response which significantly improved kidney function. 
“Compared to stem cells derived from other sources, such as bone marrow, the urine-derived stem cells have unique advantages – they are obtained in a safe, non-invasive way and a large number of cells can be generated over a few weeks,” said co-author Anthony Atala, M.D., director of WFIRM.
Co-authors include Chao Zhang, Sunil K. George, Rongpei Wu, Parth Udayan Thakker, Mehran Abolbashari, Tae-Hyoung Kim, In Kap Ko, Yuanyuan Zhang, Yinghao Sun, John Jackson, Sang Jin Lee, and James Yoo. The authors report no conflicts of interest.