Rats have received working kidneys that were grown in a laboratory, possibly opening the door for scientists to be able to grow genetically-customized organs for human patients.
"This study reports important milestones toward engineering replacement kidney grafts [and] shows the potential for this strategy," urologist Anthony Atala, director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, said to Nature. He was not involved in the study.
Currently 95,987 people are waiting for a kidney in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the organ that is most in demand. While dialysis can prolong lives, only transplants can completely cure them.
From 1988 to up to 2013, 335,732 people have received kidney transplants. While 117,168 have come from living donors, donations from the deceased are still the most popular option with 218,564 organs transplanted.
There are some tissue-engineering methods that can be used to create external kidney-assisting devices for human cells, but the study's authors pointed out that if successful, their bioengineered method will create implantable organs for patients, Nature pointed out.