Wake Forest Baptist doctors try to use discarded donor kidneys as a shell for building new ones

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.-- Doctors at Wake Forest Baptist's Center for Regenerative Medicine think they can take otherwise unusable transplant kidneys recovered from deceased donors, cleanse them of old cells and engineer a replacement organ in the lab.

Doctors say nearly 20% or roughly 2,600 kidneys are harvested from deceased donors every year that can not be used for transplants for various reasons.

Researchers think they can take those organs and cleanse them of all cells using a detergent. The process is called decellularization and it would leave only a skeleton, shell, or scaffold.

"The end product will be the kidney which will maintain the size and structure of original but won't have cells anymore. Using the patient's cells, we know to function, they need a supporting structure which we call a scaffold," said Dr. Giuseppe Orlando, a Wake Forest transplant surgeon.

That shell would be injected with a patient's cells in hopes of manufacturing a new organ that would not be rejected.

"We can actually use kidneys that would otherwise be basically wasted," said Orlando.

Doctors say in the U.S., less than 35% of patients on the kidney transplant wait list receive a kidney within the first five years, because of an excessive organ shortage. They think this process could help change that.

"We are trying to implement strategies not to waste those 2,600 kidneys, as well as to try to increase further as much as we can the number of available organs," said Orlando.

While testing the theory is in its infancy, doctors think if all goes well, they could begin human trials within 5 years.