by Steven Ertelt
September 6, 2006
Florence, Italy (LifeNews.com) — Italian scientists have made advances in adult stem cell research that may provide new hope for patients suffering from liver or kidney diseases. The research team has identified kidney stem cells that helped kidneys repair themselves and the discovery could lead to new treatments.
A team led by top immunologist Sergio Romagnani said the new kidney cells appear to be able to turn into an array of other cells in the body.
"Chronic renal diseases and terminal renal insufficiency are viewed as the medical emergency of the new century," Romagnani told a press conference, according to the ANSA Italian news agency.
He said the team found that the adult stem cells repaired kidney damage in the mice used in the study. That’s important because current treatments merely slow the disease but don’t repair damage it causes.
"This is particularly important because the drugs we currently have are only able to slow down kidney damage," he said, according to the ANSA report.
Because the cells can differentiate into bone cells, adipose (fatty tissue) cells and even nerve cells there is hope of helping to reverse degenerative diseases in those areas as well, he explained.
The team published the results of their new studies in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.
Meanwhile, one day after Romagnani’s press conference, a team in Turin announced, in the latest edition of the journal Stem Cells, that the adult kidney cells are able to become pluripotent.
"The progenitor cells identified by our team are able to differentiate into liver cells, bone cells, blood cells and even pancreatic cells that produce insulin," lead researcher Benedetta Bussolati told ANSA.
"The diffentiating capacity of these cells holds promise that they can be used in regenerative medicine such as cell therapy, an alternative to the use of embryonic stem cells," she said.
The studies show another alternative to embryonic stem cell research, which involves the destruction of human life.