Dutch scientists at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) and the University Medical Center Groningen managed to culture a layer of kidney cells using a locally developed bioactive synthetic membrane resembling human basement membrane in the kidney. It is hoped that this research will lead to lab-grown artificial kidneys using autologous cells.
Dr. Patricia Dankers, who has a central role in this research, explains that there are two essential characteristics of the synthetic membranes on which she cultures the kidney cells: their structure and their bioactivity. Structurally the membranes consist of nanofibers that are part of larger, micrometer-size fibers. This structure resembles that of a human kidney membrane. The kidney cells grow on this fibrous membrane, but cease to function after several days. Dankers was only able to maintain the cell function by adding bioactive signals to the synthetic membrane.
These signals enable the kidney cells to adhere and survive, and ensure that they continue to function. Dankers was able to achieve this by supramolecular attachment of bioactive peptides (small pieces of protein) to the synthetic membranes. To do this Dankers used a kind of ‘Velcro’ binding, also relatively recently developed at TU/e. This allows the bioactive groups to be coupled to the membrane without the complex processes that were formerly needed.
The researchers now intend to work on a biological artificial kidney to supplement the existing dialysis systems. This will increase the quality of dialysis treatment, because the kidney cells are able to filter exactly the right substances out of the blood. Dankers also hopes that the kidney cells will, in the longer term, produce hormones made by normal kidneys.
Full story: Cultured kidney cell layer is a step towards improved dialysis …
Abstract in Macromolecular Bioscience: The Use of Fibrous, Supramolecular Membranes and Human Tubular Cells for Renal Epithelial Tissue Engineering: Towards a Suitable Membrane for a Bioartificial Kidney