An estimated 10 percent of all people have some level of kidney disease–a disease that’s most commonly associated with diabetes and high blood pressure. The numbers are only growing, but much of the research has been limited in the sense that the progression of kidney diseases in humans is difficult to track.

For example, polycystic kidney disease–a very common one that’s genetic in nature and affects millions of people–is usually diagnosed in the later stages, only once the changes can be visualized via ultrasonographic imaging. At that point, many people are faced with just two options: dialysis, or a kidney transplant. But the team at the University of Washington’s Freedman Lab are doing something that’s never been done before: using pluripotent stem cells to grow kidney organoids which have many of the same properties and characteristics as human kidneys in order to create the genetic mutations that are seen in this disease and to study the origination and progression of it.

The creation of organoids aren’t just limited to kidneys though; given how powerful pluripotent stem cells are, they can be developed into any organ in the body. Just imagine being able to conduct experiments on miniature brain and liver organoids, for example. In the long run, this technology could result in the creation of more complex structures with the capability of replacing functional human organs altogether.

Benjamin Freedman is the head of the Freedman Lab and offers an in-depth discussion on the observations his team has made so far, and hypotheses as to what exactly is at play in the development and progression of common kidney diseases.

Tune in for a compelling conversation and visit freedmanlab.com to learn more.

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