Scientists say they have made kidney tissue out of bone marrow cells, a potentially astounding development in transplant surgery.

Scientists say they have made kidney tissue out of bone marrow cells, a potentially astounding development in transplant surgery.

The findings could revolutionise treatment for the thousands of patients awaiting transplant operations by repairing damaged kidneys rather than relying on a donated organ.

If the results are confirmed, it might undermine the case for the highly controversial cloning of human embryos to extract embryonic tissue for transplant operations.

The study, using mice, marks the latest development in the fast-moving field of stem cell research, where the body's own "master cells" are reprogrammed to replenish and repair damaged tissues and organs.

A team led by Professor Nicholas Wright, head of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund's histopathology unit in London, has shown for the first time that stem cells from an adult's bone marrow are capable of turning into mature kidney cells. Normally stem cells in the bone marrow only develop into specialised blood cells but the scientists have shown that they clearly have potential for turning into the tissues of other organs.

The results of the study, to be published in the Journal of Pathology, showed that it was possible to develop new ways of treating kidney damage caused by cancer or other diseases, Professor Wright said.

"Doctors could use stem cells from the patient's own bone marrow to replenish kidney cells lost by injury. This would be of huge benefit as the kidney is very poor at repairing itself," he said.

"Furthermore, there would be much less complication with the kidneys rejecting the new cells because they would come from the patient's own body."

Sir Paul Nurse, director general of the research fund, said that ultimately the scientists' work might lead to regenerating a new kidney from a patient's own stem cells.

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