Robots grow mini-organs from human stem cells

An automated system that uses robots has been designed to rapidly produce human mini-organs derived from stem cells.

Faculty in our Division of Nephrology focus on early detection, prevention and treatment of kidney disease and its complications.

Recent advancements:

Re-creating kidney disease in a petri dish

Dr. Benjamin Freedman and colleagues have, for the first time, successfully grown mini-kidney organoids from pluripotent stem cells and then used a gene-editing technique to engineer the organoids with genetic changes linked to kidney disease, re-creating kidney disease in a petri dish and paving the way for personalized kidney regeneration and drug testing. 

Wearable artificial kidney

The Wearable Artificial Kidney (WAK) has been granted Expedited Access Pathway status by the FDA, after the device performed successfully in its first U.S. clinical trial at UWMC. This is one of the first innovations in dialysis technology in decades and it has enormous potential to change patients’ quality of life.

Kidney on a chip

The Kidney Research Institute (KRI) has been chosen to engineer a kidney tissue chip to predict drug safety. The aim is to design human tissue chips that replicate human organs in order to test drugs in their early stages to see if they will cause complications to the organs.  Dr. Himmelfarb and his colleagues propose to design, implement and test a tissue engineered human kidney microphysiological system.  According to Dr. Himmelfarb “this is a new and very exciting direction for the Kidney Research Institute, in multidisciplinary partnership with our many UW colleagues.”  

Did you know?

Scribner Shunt inserted into a patient, 1960
Scribner Shunt inserted into a patient, 1960

Seattle has long been the place for kidney research. In 1960, Dr. Belding H. Scribner, the first director of nephrology at the University of Washington, and his colleagues developed a blood access device for hemodialysis called the Scribner shunt, providing a lifeline to patients with kidney failure.

The shunt allowed patients to receive lifesaving dialysis on a long-term basis, changing kidney failure from a death sentence to a treatable condition. Dr. Scribner subsequently founded Northwest Kidney Centers, the first outpatient dialysis program in the world, and made Seattle an international center for advances in kidney disease.