Nearly 40 million Americans are impacted by chronic kidney disease (CKD), a family of progressive conditions associated with widespread health complications, including higher risk for heart disease. When kidney fails, renal replacement therapy is required to sustain life. The primary interventions, dialysis and kidney transplants, are not cures and come with significant side effects and a heavy economic burden ($114 billion a year in Medicare costs). There are many forms of kidney disease that contribute to this burden, but few therapeutics have been developed to target these root causes. Altogether, kidney disease is the ninth leading cause of death nationwide.
No stem cell therapy for the kidneys exists yet. Right now, investigators at the Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine (ISCRM) are using cutting-edge strategies to study how kidney disease begins and how it can be treated. Kidney organoids and kidney-on-a-chip technology are among the powerful discovery platforms yielding insights in ISCRM labs across the University of Washington. Current kidney research efforts include:
Research efforts underway at ISCRM are leading to exciting discoveries. Dr. Benjamin Freedman is one of the original inventors of kidney organoids, and is using this platform to develop therapies for a variety of conditions including cystinosis, polycystic kidney disease, diabetic nephropathy, and APOL1 disease. Freedman envisions a future in which a precision medicine approach to kidney disease enables earlier and more effective interventions that help patients live healthier lives, including gene therapy and regenerative medicine approaches.