Current estimates indicate that kidney disease currently affects over 37 million US adults and over 10% of the global population[1]. Characterized by gradual loss of function, kidney disease generally progresses over time and culminates in the inability to remove waste and excess fluid from the blood[2].  

Often demonstrating little to no symptoms in its early stages, chronic kidney disease tends to demonstrate increasing and dangerous symptoms as the condition advances.

To date, treatment for chronic kidney disease has been centered around causal control as a way of slowing the progression of the condition. However, these therapeutic treatment efforts, including multidrug therapy, have demonstrated an inability to reverse the condition from progressing to end-stage renal disease (ESRD) and requiring additional therapy, dialysis, or kidney transplantation. 

Considering the high cost and disruption to normal life function associated with dialysis and the severe shortage of viable kidney donors, neither dialysis nor transplant has proven to be ideal or often recommended treatment strategies. As a result, there has been renewed interest in new and more effective therapeutic options to alleviate, cure, or prevent kidney disease and to improve a patient’s survival and quality of life.

Evaluating the numerous and growing therapeutic applications associated with stem cells’ ability for self-renewal, proliferation, and differentiation, Liu et al.’s review explores the potential benefits offered toward improving renal function and supporting structural repair in those afflicted with kidney disease.

Despite the promising benefits of using stem cells to kidney repair and disease treatment demonstrated through prior preclinical study, the authors point out that certain ethical issues regarding the origin of stem cells, and specifically embryonic stem cells (ESCs) need to be addressed and overcome before clinical application of SCs.

Regardless of the stated drawbacks, Liu et. al concludes that the existing evidence demonstrates that stem cell therapy appears to be a clinically viable alternative for kidney disease, specifically for restoring normal kidney function and for progressing understanding about tissue regeneration, drug screening, and disease modeling.   

Although stem cells demonstrate promise in this regard and while the immunomodulatory properties of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) appear to make them the most promising SC for treating kidney disease, the authors also point out that further research is needed before definitively concluding which source of SC is best suited for this application.

As a result of this review, and in an effort to realize these findings into clinical applications in the future, the authors call for larger rigorously designed clinical trials to further assist in determining the clinical efficacy of SC therapy in kidney disease – including the appropriate selection of cell types, number of SCs required, and the appropriate route of administration.

Source: “Stem cells: a potential treatment option for kidney diseases.” 25 Jun. 2020, https://stemcellres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13287-020-01751-2.


[1] “Chronic Kidney Disease Basics – CDC.” https://www.cdc.gov/kidneydisease/basics.html.

[2] “Chronic kidney disease – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic.” 3 Sep. 2021, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/chronic-kidney-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20354521.

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