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Organ Regeneration May Be On Its Way

December 26th, 2013 | WMFE - It sounds like crazy science fiction, but it could become a reality. Researchers at the University of Florida are working on taking a pig kidney and turning it into a human kidney. If it works, it could radically change the lives of kidney failure patients.

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The process is sometimes referred to as organ regeneration. At the University of Florida, researchers have successfully taken a rat kidney and washed it of all its cells.  That left what Biomedical Engineering professor Chris Batich calls a scaffolding.

“What it looks like, you start out with a typical red kidney, and you wash all of the stuff out and you get something that’s about the same size, but it’s white and translucent, you can see through part of it, and it’s got all of the blood vessel structures and everything, just no cells,” Batich says.

The plan now is to do that same thing with a pig kidney. The kidney would then be injected with stem cells grown from the patient.  That would produce a kidney made from the patient’s own cells, eliminating the risk of rejection.  UF Health Professor of Medicine and co-researcher Edward Ross says successfully transplanting a regenerated pig kidney into a human patient could happen years sooner than people realize.

“I personally think it’s going to be ten plus, but you will hear five from some of the groups around the world,” says Ross.

A regenerated trachea was successfully transplanted in Spain- the challenge now is to regenerate a more complex organ, like a kidney.  Ross says the entire field is new and considered high risk, which makes it difficult to secure funding. But more than 100,000 people are waiting for kidney transplants in the United States, and only 17,000 are performed each year. If the pig kidney research proves successful, a kidney ready for transplant could be grown in a matter of a few months.  


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