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Functioning human mini-kidney grown from stem cells in mice for first time

Functional human “mini-kidneys” capable of filtering blood to produce urine have been grown in a living organism in a medical first that marks a major step towards treatments for kidney disease.

Researchers have been able to develop human stem cells into a mini-kidney which is “markedly more mature than any previously reported findings”.

It is complete with functioning human blood vessels and able to filter the blood of its mouse host.

The team, from Manchester University, were able to produce their advance by doing the final stages of the kidney growth in a mouse subject, rather than a petri dish.

“Nobody has done this before,” the project’s lead, Professor Susan Kimber of the university’s Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health told The Independent.

“We’re the first to put these kidney cells into this in vivo [living] environment and show they can function.”

The team showed that fluorescent dye, injected into the mice, was being filtered from the blood and into the kidney tubules.

“The tubule’s job is to selectively reabsorb key molecules, mainly salts but also things like glucose, to stop them being wasted, and we saw that as well,” added Professor Kimber.

Recent efforts to create artificially grown kidneys has focused on growing complete organs in the lab, with the aim of transplanting them.

But Professor Kimber says no other group has managed to make their kidneys work.