The use of stem cells in kidney disease

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Purpose of review

Acute and chronic kidney disease is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide with overall mortality rates between 50 and 80%. An acute shortage of compatible organs coupled with limited adaptability of current dialysis techniques has created a sense of urgency to investigate new alternatives, and the purpose of this review is to provide a concise overview of current stem cell-based strategies in renal repair following acute kidney injury.

Recent findings

Bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells hold therapeutic potential in repairing tubular injury, ameliorating renal function deficits, and prolonging survival in experimental models of acute kidney injury. These renoprotective effects are mediated mainly by paracrine mechanisms that act on surviving tubular cells by stimulating dedifferentiation, proliferation, migration, and eventually redifferentiation into mature epithelial cells as well as by stimulating expansion and differentiation of resident stem/progenitor cells. Mesenchymal stem cells are capable of immunosuppression as well as inducing protection against peritubular capillary changes following acute injury making them ideal for allogeneic cell therapy.


Autologous transplantation of bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells as well as adult renal stem/progenitor cells that can be easily harvested and expanded may be the solution to limited donor organ availability and chronic immunosuppressive therapy.

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