With the prospect of providing new hope for patients afflicted with liver or kidney disease, Italian scientists have made a number of advances in adult stem cell research. Their breakthroughs could lead to novel treatments for kidney and liver disease as the team has identified kidney stem cells that help kidneys to repair themselves.
The new kidney cells appear to be able to turn into an assortment of other cells in the body said team leader and top immunologist Sergio.
“Chronic renal diseases and terminal renal insufficiency are viewed as the medical emergency of the new century,” Sergio told a press conference, according to the ANSA Italian news agency.
In the mice used in the study, the team established that the adult stem cells repaired the damaged kidney after injection. Existing treatments don’t repair damage, but simply slow the progress of the disease, which makes this a fantastic discovery.
“This is particularly important because the drugs we currently have are only able to slow down kidney damage,” he said, according to the ANSA report.
There is the anticipation that the discovery could lead to the reverse of additional degenerative diseases in other areas of the body as well since the cells can differentiate into adipose (fatty tissue), bone cells, and even nerve cells.
The team published the results of their new studies in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. And one day after Sergio’s press conference, another team in Turin announced that adult kidney cells are able to become pluripotent. These results were published in the latest edition of the journal Stem Cells.
“The progenitor cells identified by our team are able to differentiate into liver cells, bone cells, blood cells and even pancreatic cells that produce insulin,” lead researcher Benedetta told ANSA.
“The differentiating capacity of these cells holds promise that they can be used in regenerative medicine such as cell therapy, an alternative to the use of embryonic stem cells,” she said.
These recent findings afford yet another alternative to embryonic stem cell research. With new discoveries like the ones revealed in Italy being announced regularly, it is a wonder why the debate over embryonic stem cells still exists.