Demand for kidney transplants is increasing. In the western world, high blood pressure and type II diabetes are on the rise and are contributing to higher rates of kidney disease. But there are not enough donor organs to meet this growing need. Stem cell based therapies may offer an alternative solution.
About the kidney
The kidneys are towards the back of the body, roughly 10 cm above the hipbones and just below the ribcage. They are the body’s filtering units, maintaining a safe balance of fluid, minerals, salts and other substances in the blood. They produce urine to remove waste and harmful substances from the body. They also produce several hormones: erythropoietin (EPO), which acts on the bone marrow to increase the production of red blood cells; calcitriol (active Vitamin D3), which promotes absorption and use of calcium and phosphate for healthy bones and teeth; and the enzyme renin, which is involved in monitoring and controlling blood pressure.
The key working component of the kidney is the nephron.
The nephron is made up of:
- The glomerulus – a dense network of capillaries that filters the blood
- The Bowman capsule – surrounds the glomerulus, captures the fluid that has been filtered out of the bloodstream and empties it into the tubules
- The tubules – tiny tubes lined with a single layer of specialized cells whose job is mainly to reabsorb water and electrolytes (e.g. sodium, potassium, chloride, and bicarbonate) into the blood before the remaining waste fluid leaves the body as urine.
Kidney diseases usually involve damage to the nephrons and can be acute or chronic. In acute kidney disease there is a sudden drop in kidney function. It is usually caused by loss of large amounts of blood or an accident and is often short lived, though it can occasionally lead to lasting kidney damage. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is defined as loss of a third or more of kidney function for at least three months. In CKD kidney function worsens over a number of years and the problem often goes undetected for many years because its effects are relatively mild. Some of the symptoms associated with CKD are: headache, fatigue, high blood pressure, itching, fluid retention, shortness of breath.
However, kidney disease can lead to kidney failure (less than 10% kidney function). Once this happens, patients need dialysis or a kidney transplant to stay alive. The risk of developing CKD is increased by old age, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and smoking. At least 8% of the European population (40 million individuals) currently has a degree of CKD, putting them at risk of developing kidney failure. This figure is increasing every year and there are not enough organ donors to provide transplants for so many patients. This makes the development of new therapeutic options for treating CKD increasingly important.
Kidney Failure tends to disproportionately affect patients with other underlying medical conditions such as Polycystic Kidney Disease, polyneuropathy,or Diabetes Mellitus. Doctors believe that sustained uncontrolled high blood sugar (and also high blood pressure) is the main cause of kidney failure for most people. Not all Diabetic patients have to suffer from eventual failure requiring a transplant or require emergency reversal of kidney disease with stem cells. The Kidneys have the function of eliminating excess fluids from the blood through our urine. When kidneys start to fail, this function gets disrupted. More fluids start collecting in the body. Then, swelling begins. Patients often report have swollen eyes as well as swollen legs after some time the entire body might swells up.
When excess fluids and waste can’t be removed from the body naturally, patients begin to lose appetite. They might even begin vomiting frequently as the body struggles with the excess stored waste. As kidney begin to lose functions other symptoms take hold, such as retaining helpful proteins in the blood supply called proteinuria.Proteinuria can be easily discovered with a simple urine test. Kidney disease patients who also have Diabetes can find that their urine turns out to be a little foamy in appearance.
Types of Acute Renal Failure
- Recurrent kidney stones
- “Anaemia” Low blood count from kidney disease
- Kidney induced Lupus
- Haemodialysis Elimination
- Recurrent urinary tract infections
- Renal artery stenosis
- Peritoneal dialysis
- Chronic or long term Dialysis at Hospital
- Interstitial nephritis
- Acute kidney failure – Sudden
- Protein or Blood in the urine
- Kidneys damage due to high blood pressure
- Polycystic kidneys
- Electrolyte imbalance
- Chronic kidney disease (CKD)
Clinical studies have shown that red blood cells have the function of carrying oxygen from the lungs to provide all of the body’s requirements and to provide you the energy you’ll need for your day-to-day activities. Nevertheless, a failing kidney cannot secrete sufficient erythropoietin and lower levels of erythropoietin do not stimulate the bone marrow to be able to produce more red cells which results in anemia.