Earlier therapies for the potentially life-threatening condition, acute kidney failure, have been generally ineffective in treating the disease. But stem cell applications could help improve and protect kidney function in patients as new research reveals.
When kidneys concentrate urine and are unable to remove waste, acute renal failure is the consequence. The outlook for survival in patients is particularly grave when the kidney failure is caused by trauma or surgery.
“Acute renal failure is a common condition that affects up to 7 percent of hospitalized patients,” lead author Dr. Lorenza, Ph.D., of the Fondazione Policlinico in Milano, Italy, told Ivanhoe. “In intensive care units, mortality rate of the disease can be higher than 50 percent of patients.”
Stem cells obtained from full-term umbilical cord blood have characteristics that can stimulate tissue repair and the development of bone and cartilage. New research reveals that these mesenchymal stem cells can help patients recuperate more rapidly and avoid long-term kidney complications associated with tissue damage.
Researchers in Italy used a control solution of intravenous saline or cord blood mesenchymal stem cells to treat mice with acute renal failure. Evaluations were conducted on the mice prior to transplant in order to determine histology and renal function. When blood urea nitrogen, a waste by product that indicates kidney malfunction was measured in the rats, those that received stem cell treatment had much lower levels. A reduction in renal tissue damage was also observed in the mice that were treated with stem cells.
“We observed several renal parameters and saw we have less severe complications,” Dr. Lorenza said. “The tubular renal structure of the animals treated with mesenchymal stem cells is comparable to normal ones [animals].”
Researchers think these preliminary results are promising for future treatment of patients with acute renal failure.
“One of our conclusions is we believe one of the possible clinical treatments for this disease could be cord blood mesenchymal stem cells,” Dr. Lorenza said.
Although further research is still needed, Dr. Lorenza believes that mesenchymal stem cells would offer similar benefits to humans. It would be a safer and more effective treatment for renal failure.