Researchers at Children's Hospital Los Angeles say they've successfully tested a surprisingly simple treatment to slow the progression of kidney disease: an injection of stem cells derived from amniotic fluid.
Roger De Filippo and Laura Perin pursued the experiment using an Alport's Syndrome model--a kidney disease involving progressively worsening fibrosis. Their team injected stem cells that came from the fluid around the fetus at an early stage of the disease. The group found that the treatment boosted survival time, while kidney function declined more slowly.
De Filippo and Perin co-direct the hospital's GOFARR Laboratory for Organ Regenerative Research and Cell Therapeutics at The Saban Research Institute. Details are published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.
If they can prove the treatment works in other kidney diseases, it could become an important way to preserve health and prevent patients from having to endure dialysis quite so soon, something that is often inevitable for kidney disease. Maybe a kidney transplant wouldn't be necessary in the long term? It's too soon to tell, but we would like to see more research in this area.
There's another issue, however. A big selling point here is amniotic stem cells potentially have the same therapeutic benefit as embryonic stem cells, but without the political and religious baggage the latter's use brings to the table. But how do you ensure an adequate supply of these cells to treat kidney disease? The researchers correctly note that doctors can safely obtain them through amniocentesis or after a child is born. But would you seek consent from parents of newborn children to harvest the cells? Or does this become a business expansion opportunity for private cord blood banks, which collect stem cells from the placenta and umbilical cord and store them on behalf of individual families?
Or, will public policymakers focus on supporting amniotic stem cell reserves so all can access them?
- here's the release
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