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At the frontier of tomorrow’s medicine: mini-kidneys in a dish tell genetic story

02 December 2019
Meet Australian researchers who use stem cells to advance our understanding of how the body develops and what happens during disease.

Professor Melissa Little and her Kidney Regeneration group at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute are combining stem cells and gene editing to understand kidney diseases and their treatments.

Dr Tom Forbes is a paediatric nephrologist and PhD candidate and works directly with patients, to manage their kidney disease. 

Tom is also researching kidney disease uses kidney tissue grown in a dish created from reprogrammed skin cells, called a kidney organoid. Creating reprogrammed stem cells from a patient captures all the genetic and disease information, making it a perfect model to understand the disease.

Team member Dr Sara Howden uses a new method she invented to gene edit and correct mutations in the kidney organoid, allowing the team to grow kidney organoids from both diseased and gene-corrected stem cells, providing the perfect experiment for studying disease.

These experiments result in an enormous amount of data about kidney disease; this new way to understand disease is an important step towards developing personalised treatments in the future.

Listen to Melissa, Tom and Sara share an insight into their research, the importance of a interdisciplinary team and how creativity allows out of the box thinking, a crucial skill in research.  


Australian stem cell researchers are making important discoveries in the lab, that will move research outcomes towards clinical applications. Watch their videos.