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Developing a stem cell based therapy to replace nephrons lost through reflux nephropathy


The prevalence of end stage renal disease (ESRD) continues to grow worldwide. Current treatment options for ESRD are peritoneal dialysis, haemodialysis, or renal transplantation, all of which have significant drawbacks both in terms of quality and quantity of life. In children and young adults, the most common cause of ESRD is vesicoureteric reflux (VUR), a condition where urine from the bladder re-enters the kidney. VUR creates an increased risk of urinary tract infection, predisposing to pyelonephritis, renal scarring, and in the most severe cases, ESRD. However, there is usually a time-window of several years from initial diagnosis of VUR to the development of ESRD, which presents an opportunity to design therapies aimed at preventing disease progression by repairing renal tissue before it becomes non functional. Recent advances in stem cell science and tissue engineering suggests that stem cell based therapies for reflux nephropathy could be feasible. The long-term aim is to explore the potential of resident kidney stem cells for renal replacement therapy in order to prevent susceptible children from developing ESRD. In this project, the potential of resident kidney stem cells will be tested by transplantation into mouse embryonic kidneys ex vivo. To devise a suitable scaffold to, a range of biocompatible polymeric substrates will be fabricated and tested for their ability to support nephrogenesis from disaggregated mouse kidney rudiments in vitro. Finally, we will develop a magnetic nanoparticle-based cell tracking technique that will enable the transplanted cells to be monitored in vivo using magnetic resonance imaging. Results generated by the project will establish if kidney stem cells have potential for future use in regenerative medicine. Should the results prove positive, further work will determine if the isolated kidney stem are capable of generating nephrons in animal models in vivo.

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Brownlow hill 765 foundation building
L69 7ZX Liverpool
United Kingdom

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North West (England) Merseyside Liverpool
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Administrative Contact
Patricia Murray (Dr.)
EU contribution
No data