Scientists have tried and succeeded in using mice stem cells to grow kidneys inside rat embryos. In the future, this technique could help grow human kidneys.
The researchers also claimed that their initial success was a very small step because of various complex ethical issues and technical barriers that could stall the process when it comes to human organs.
The scientists have previously used this same method to develop mice-derived pancreases mainly in Rats.
Experts believe that this progress could one day offer a lasting solution to the teething problem of the scarcity of the donor’s kidneys.
The research published in the journal began (Nature Communications) with the initial goal of developing a healthy “host” in which the organs could be grown.
For this specific purpose, the scientists collected special rat embryo structures genetically modified to suit their work. These structures were modified enough to not develop kidneys.
Using pluripotent stem cells removed from mice, the embryos were later inserted or implanted into the wombs of the rat.
The reason for using pluripotent stem cells is that these cells are a type of “master cells” that can easily grow into tissues and cells that constitute the body.
The scientists then discovered that the mice stem cells created apparently working kidneys in the rats.
This technique did not produce a similar result when rat stem cells replaced the previously used mice stem cells. Mice stem cells ideally differentiate into two distinct main forms of cells required for kidney formation.
The exact reason for the difference remains unclear, but the scientists think “environmental cues” present inside the mice might hold the clue.
While the rats showed working kidneys with connections to the tubes that connect the bladder and kidneys together, they perished shortly after birth.
Removing the genetic trait that supports kidneys to grow in utero seems to have also bypassed their normal sense of smell. Due to this factor, the newborns could not detect milk.
As per observations, the organs appeared working “based on anatomical factors.” The disadvantage of this technique is that growing an organ in a new host from a different species can result in organ contamination
This technique of harvesting human parts in animals raises a crucial ethical question because these cells could grow into a reproductive organ or brain cells.
The present concern for researchers is to develop genetically modified rats without serious side effects. In the long run, scientists could conduct a test that could involve steps to develop or harvest human organs.
Pigs are the best choice to act as a host for organ regeneration but unlike human embryos that grow for 40 weeks, they develop for around 16 weeks. This suggests that pigs are not ideal for such an experiment.
Cattles having not less than 40-weeks gestation periods could be considered for this purpose. Taking a look at this report, it looks clear that the future generations are in for a medical surprise.