- Burnett School College of Medicine Faculty News
WOFL FOX 35 in Orlando recently featured College of Medicine research into using pig kidneys to grow new human organs for patients suffering from kidney failure diabetes. The research is led by Dr. Edward Ross, Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine and interim associate dean for clinical affairs, and Dr. Bradley Willenberg, assistant scientist, Department of Internal Medicine.
The researchers explained to FOX that because pig kidneys are so biologically similar to those of a human, they want to use the overall architecture of the pig kidney to create a new organ with human cells. They showed a kidney in which they had carefully stripped away all the pig cells, leaving behind a complex kidney-shaped biomaterial scaffold which can direct the growth of new human cells, ideally derived from the sick patient. The team has shown early results in using this scaffolding to grow stem cells, a necessary first step in developing the process that may one day be used to regrow whole organs with these scaffolds.
The UCF scientists’ work is unique because not only can the pig kidney scaffold be used to grow human kidneys, but the vascular network and ducts of the kidney also make this organ scaffold an ideal platform for growing insulin-producing cells of the pancreas for implantation into diabetics. If this kidney-turned-pancreas works, it could potentially cure Type 1 diabetes, which occurs when a patient’s immune system destroys their own insulin-producing cells of the pancreas.