Treatments using the new approach could help millions of patients by preventing the need for dialysis treatment.

Researchers at Israel’s Sheba Medical Center found that damaged kidneys can be rejuvenated by extracting healthy kidney stem cells from diseased cells, multiplying the healthy cells in a laboratory and reintroducing them into the kidney. The findings were published in the prestigious Cell Reports medical journal this week.

“This treatment is aimed at the millions of patients who have yet to require dialysis treatment, and focuses on improving and stabilizing their renal function in order to avoid the need for dialysis,” commented Prof. Benjamin Dekel, head of Pediatric Nephrology and the Pediatric Stem Cell Research Institute in the Edmond and Lily Safra Children’s hospital at Sheba Medical Center, who led the study.

The groundbreaking technique avoids rejection of the kidney, a common challenge in organ transplant, and largely eliminates the need for immunosuppression medication, as it relies on the patient’s own cells.

A company called KidneyCure is commercializing the technology, running clinical trials in patients with renal failure.

Thus far, the method was successfully tested on mice, which grew new renal structures following the procedure. Should clinical trial on humans prove successful, it could prevent the need for dialysis, an exhausting, expensive, and time-consuming treatment that must be done several times per week.

“The breakthrough in this technology, which was developed at Sheba Medical Center, is not only in the ability to maintain the kidney renewing cells outside the body, but also in the fact that we are able to multiply them to generate large numbers of cells and make them work properly using the 3D cultures,” Prof. Dekel said. “This is important news for patients with chronic kidney disease, which hopefully could benefit from these discoveries in following years. The ability to generate new kidney tissue that could replace the damaged tissue might help millions of patients worldwide who suffer from kidney disease.”