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Can Kidneys Repair Themselves?

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The kidneys, indispensable organs for maintaining homeostasis in our bodies, can easily fall victim to various disorders. These diseases, ranging from transient to chronic conditions, disrupt the functional equilibrium of our systems and affect our overall well-being.

What are the early signs of kidney disease?

Maintaining kidney health is crucial for our overall function. Yet, many times, the initial signs of kidney diseases are subtle and easily overlooked. Some initial indicators include fatigue, changes in urine frequency or appearance, persistent itching, swelling in the ankles or feet, and a poor appetite. Recognizing these symptoms early on can be pivotal in seeking timely medical attention and preventing the progression of the disease. Being aware of these signs can make all the difference in early diagnosis and intervention.

What are the different types of kidney disease?

  1. Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD): Long-term kidney malfunction, potentially culminating in kidney failure.
  2. Acute Kidney Injury (AKI): (Acute kidney disease) Sudden kidney damage or failure that can arise swiftly. Life threatening kidney injury can lead to acute kidney failure if untreated. 
  3. Glomerulonephritis: An inflammatory condition of the kidney's filtering units.
  4. Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD): A genetic disorder resulting in fluid-filled cysts within the kidneys.
  5. Kidney Stones: Painful, hard deposits that develop in the kidneys.
  6. Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs): Infections that can affect any part of the urinary system, including the kidneys.
  7. Nephrotic Syndrome: Kidneys leak excessive protein into the urine.
  8. Renal Artery Stenosis: Narrowing of arteries that carry blood to one or both kidneys.
  9. Interstitial Nephritis: A condition marked by inflammation of the spaces between renal tubules.
  10. Kidney Cancer: Malignancies that originate in the kidneys.
  11. Diabetic Nephropathy: A complication from diabetes resulting in kidney damage.
  12. Hypertensive Nephropathy: Kidney dysfunction due to chronic high blood pressure.

... and many more.

All types of kidney disease share one thing in common, they disrupt kidney function and create a ripple effects in the body's balance of blood pressure, blood sugar, and salt metabolism. Beyond the overt symptoms and complications such as kidney stones and prospect of kidney dialysis, the various conditions hint at further escalation of kidney damage, renal disease, chronic kidney failure, and even risks of kidney cancer. Patients with kidney conditions often face a myriad of challenges, from managing daily activities to maintaining a balanced diet (a healthy diet), active lifestyle and positive outlook. 

Can kidneys self-repair?

The remarkable self-repair capabilities of human kidneys is a testament to their intricate design. Built with diverse cell types, ranging from epithelial cells to kidney stem cells, these vital organs possess a profound ability to heal and rejuvenate. However, as we age and our kidneys encounter a range of health challenges, their regenerative potential can be put to the test. Acute kidney injuries or the progressive nature of chronic kidney failure further strain these self-repair mechanisms. Delving deeper, we can recognize further nuanced challenges, particularly when confronting chronic conditions and the demands they place on kidney repair.

The Challenge of Chronic Conditions and Kidney Repair:

  • The Constant Challenge: Chronic conditions expose adult kidneys to relentless physiological challenge. High blood pressure, fluctuating blood sugar levels, salt excess steadily erode normal kidney function and hinder its innate ability to self-regulate and self-repair.

  • Pharmaceutical Impact: Certain medications, particularly toxic drugs, can aggravate kidney damage, further impeding their intrinsic regenerative capabilities. Damaged kidneys can be even further damaged, making kidney disease worse, with often well meaning yet unfitting medication regimen. 

  • Scar Tissue Dilemma: Chronic kidney disease often leads to the formation of scar tissue. This non-functional tissue gradually replaces the supple and healthy kidney tissue, rendering repair process increasingly challenging.

  • Compromised Blood Flow: Healthy kidney function is heavily reliant on optimal blood circulation. In diseased states, blood flow to the kidneys can be compromised, depriving them of the vital oxygen and nutrients necessary for repair.

  • Age-related Damage: as we age, kidneys not only suffer from the challenges presented above but also from aging related physiological changes, such as loss of kidney stem cells, leading to an increased risk for kidney disease 

This leads us to a crucial realization: merely relying on the body's natural healing mechanisms might not suffice in the face of chronic kidney conditions. The dynamics of kidney health, especially under the relentless onslaught of chronic conditions, necessitates intervention. This is where the field of regenerative medicine and stem cell medicine come to the forefront, offering promising solutions and potential pathways to mitigate both acute kidney disease and chronic kidney disease. 

What are pluripotent stem cells and how do they repair?

Pluripotent stem cells originate from the earliest stages of developmental biology and are predifferentiated, meaning they have not yet taken on a specific function or form. Due to their undifferentiated properties, they can signal repair across all 220+ tissue types in the human body, offering the most comprehensive tool in regenerative medicine.

While their proliferative and differentiation potentials are noteworthy for scientific exploration, the therapeutic edge of pluripotent stem cells is their secretome. The potent reparative repertoire they release into tissue is the real game-changer, improving many aspects of tissue health: 

  • DNA Integrity: They can redress DNA impairments, safeguarding cellular genetic integrity.

  • Telomere Extension: Telomeres cap our DNA, but age-induced attrition ensues. Plurisomes and their stem cells signal to augment telomere length. 

  • Vascular and Neural Regrowth: Their angiogenic factors signal the tissue to sprout new blood vessels, indispensable for damaged tissue sustenance. This is paramount for kidneys, where enhanced blood flow accelerates repair.

  • Scarring Dissolution: Their anti-fibrotic constituents diminish scars, rejuvenating tissues to their more youthful and healthy elasticity.

  • Epigenetic Overhaul: Their most profound asset might be cellular reprogramming. With Yamanaka factors, DNA, and mitochondrial repair components, coupled with Plurisomes, they can recondition tissues to a healthier metabolic state.

How do pluripotent stem cells help with kidney repair?

Revolutionizing Repair Signaling:

Both allogeneic and autologous pluripotent stem cells are known for their potent ability to transmit effective repair signals across all human tissue types. Such signaling is believed to have the potential to rejuvenate even the most mature kidney cells. The presence of Yamanaka factors, telomere elongation factors, DNA repair factors, mitochondrial repair factors, angiogenic and anti-fibrotic factors in Plurisomes further amplifies their cellular reprogramming ability, providing a unique mechanism to counteract kidney aging and kidney damage. Renal repair and restoration of kidney function is often the result. 

Unlocking the Potential of Progenitor Cells:

The kidney's intricate architecture houses several resident progenitor cells, notably in regions like the proximal tubules and kidney papilla. Research using rodent models,  kidney samples from newborn mice and adult rat kidneys, has revealed distinct embryonic kidney markers. These markers emphasize the untapped potential of progenitor cell pools. Pluripotent stem cells, with their wide ranging signaling capabilities, are understood to play a role in activating this population of progenitor cells, thereby augmenting long term kidney repair.

Synergistic Repair Potential:

The combined efforts of pluripotent stem cells emitting repair signals and resident kidney progenitor cells reacting to these cues create a unique and potent biosynergistic approach for kidney rejuvenation. Yet, pluripotent stem cells offer more than activating pool of progenitor cells and repairing damaged cells. They play a pivotal role in shaping the local environment, positively influencing aspects like blood flow, blood vessels, and even gene activity. Current clinical trials are exploring how these cells might collaborate with other treatments, presenting a novel option for kidney diseases. Such advancements could diminish the current reliance on extensive procedures like kidney dialysis, kidney transplants and address complications associated with renal failure.

Complexities of Renal Repair:

Kidney repair is a complex process, intricately woven with various complex health conditions, the nuanced equilibrium of blood cell composition, and the roles of both renal and resident progenitor cells. Moreover, challenges like blood loss and exposure to toxic drugs add layers to this complexity. Yet, when pluripotent stem cells are introduced intravenously, their comprehensive signaling profile extends to every tissue in the body. This unique ability not only facilitates healing across all organs and systems but also harmonizes them, underscoring the transformative potential of pluripotent stem cells in orchestrating effective repair and functional homeostasis. 

Beyond Just the Kidneys:

The regenerative capabilities brought about by pluripotent stem cells aren't confined to the kidneys. The urinary tract, kidney ureter, and other associated structures stand to gain from this repair process and rejuvenation. Yet, there remain common conditions, like a disrupted salt balance, often worsened by diets high in salt, that can exacerbate kidney conditions. Thus, interventions like adopting a low protein diet become paramount.

The ultimate vision of regenerative medicine treatment pathways is unequivocal: to preserve and maintain the optimal function of the kidneys for a lifetime. With the promising advancements and discoveries surrounding pluripotent stem cells, there is renewed optimism in stem cell science and clinical medicine for the future of renal health. At Stemaid Institute, the healthcare team combines these groundbreaking insights with thorough diagnostic kidney tests evaluations, ensuring that each patient's treatment plan is tailored to offer the most personalized and  effective regenerative care.


1. Therapeutic potential of human induced pluripotent stem cells and renal progenitor cells in experimental chronic kidney disease - PubMed

2. Cell Therapy Using Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell-Derived Renal Progenitors Ameliorates Acute Kidney Injury in Mice - PubMed

3. Stem cells: a potential treatment option for kidney diseases - PubMed

4. Current advances of stem cell-based therapy for kidney diseases - PubMed

5. Editorial: Stem cell regeneration strategies in treating kidney diseases: From mechanisms to therapeutics

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