UK Renal Regenerative Medicine Network (UKRRMN)
Renal regenerative medicine therapies (RRMTs) aim to regenerate, repair or replace damaged renal tissue using cell, drug or gene therapies as well as tissue engineering in order to restore normal kidney function.
RRMTs encompass a broad range of approaches, many of which involve the use of stem cells. These are essential for replacing injured tissues and cells that are lost every day (e.g. skin, hair and blood) as they are able to make new stem cells or new tissue cells as the need arises. However, we have learned that stem cells as regenerative medicine therapies are not making new kidney cells but rather release signals to repair or protect the kidneys.
Studies involving regenerative medicine and stem cells help us to understand how the kidney forms and works, the impact of genetic disease and damage to kidney function, and the beneficial effects of regeneration. These are all key areas in helping to deliver the UK Renal Research Strategy.
We believe that the UK has the potential to become a leader in renal regenerative medicine and stem cell research. The aim of the UK Renal Regenerative Medicine Network is to develop and strengthen multidisciplinary collaboration between patients, biologists, material scientists, bioengineers, clinicians (including nephrologists, surgeons and genetics experts).
While stem cell and regenerative medicine therapies have potential for improving the health of renal patients in the future, no therapies have yet been proven. Unfortunately, many companies are now selling unproven ‘stem’ cell therapies for various conditions, including for kidney disease, directly to patients. We strongly recommend that patients should avoid such companies as the administration of unproven therapies can cause serious adverse effects.
We encourage patients to look through the information by the International Society for Stem Cell Research, and to get in touch if you have any questions.
Who we are
The UK Renal Regenerative Medicine Network is supported by Kidney Research UK and jointly led by
- Professor Jamie Davies, Professor of Experimental Anatomy, University of Edinburgh,
- Dr Bettina Wilm, Department of Cellular and Molecular Physiology at the University of Liverpool
- Professor Patricia Murray, Professor of Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine, University of Liverpool.
All activities are shaped by the view of kidney patients, led by David Prosser, Kidney Research UK trustee and patient.
- Provide a forum for renal regenerative medicine researchers, generating research ideas as well as identifying and communicating priority areas for research
- Facilitate collaboration between renal regenerative medicine researchers and provide a resource to assist investigators in developing or refining research studies
- Provide a point of contact for companies wishing to engage in renal regenerative medicine research in the UK
- Advocate for funding of UK renal regenerative medicine research
- Provide information for patients interested in the current status of research into renal regenerative medicine therapies, and of the development of clinical treatments.
- Repairing the kidney ‘in situ’, using cell-based regenerative medicine therapies introduced to repair damaged renal tissue – led by Professor Patricia Murray and Dr Bettina Wilm
- Making a miniaturised/simplified version of a new kidney that is grown in a controlled environment (lab) that can be used for investigating renal diseases and testing novel therapies, and perhaps eventual construction of a transplantable stem-cell-derived kidney – led by Professor Jamie Davies
- Improving the viability of transplanted kidneys – led by Mr Marc Clancy, Honorary Clinical Associate Professor, Transplant Unit, Western Infirmary Hospital, Glasgow
- Engineering ‘kidney substitutes’ to do the work of a kidney – developing new structures (e.g. renal assist devices to help improve dialysis) – led by Dr Colin Brown, Senior Lecturer, Institute for Cell and Molecular Biosciences, Newcastle University
Cell-based regenerative medicine therapies:
- Stem cells assist regeneration mainly by secreting molecules that alter the way the immune system works, encouraging repair and protection rather than destruction and scarring. We are currently studying what these signals are and how they might work.
- We have found that stem cells put into the body might end up in the wrong place, where they do no good and may be dangerous. We are currently using advanced imaging techniques to study the where stem cells go and what they do when they are 'lost'.
Stem cell-derived kidneys:
These are currently very small and immature so a major challenge for the future is making stem cell-derived kidneys larger and mature enough to support life.
Using ideas emerging from the Network, we have launched:
- EU ITN RenalToolBox (Patricia Murray)
- Kidney Research UK project grant (Bettina Wilm)
- Kidney Research UK project grant and PhD studentship, MRC Project grant,
EU ITN, CyGenTiG, BBSRC and BPS programme grants, Medicines for Malaria Venture (Jamie Davies).
For more information and to find out about getting involved as a patient or researcher, contact: