Making mini-kidneys to understand kidney disease

28 August 2017
MCRI's Dr Lorna Hale

Dr Lorna Hale is a scientist at the Murdoch Children’s Institute in Melbourne. For over ten years she has worked in the field of renal medicine with a focus on the role of particular cells found in kidney called podocytes. She recently received a prize for her work at the 2017 Stem Cells Australia Retreat. 

Human kidneys regulate the balance of different fluids and the removal of waste products from the blood. They do this by filtering the blood through specialised units in the kidney called glomeruli. The average human kidney contains 1 million glomeruli and these structures are crucial for normal kidney function.

In many patients with kidney disease the cells which make up the glomeruli, such as podocytes, become injured. This often leads to irreversible damage to the filtering units and eventually results in kidney failure.

Lorna uses kidney organoids – small scale or mini kidneys – made from the patient’s own stem cells. These mini-kidneys are an exact genetic match to the patient, allowing Lorna to replicate the patients’ disease in the lab.

By using this approach Lorna can explore in detail how podocytes develop and their role in kidney disease. Her aim is to advance our understanding and develop future treatments and therapies.Lorna is part of the Murdoch Children's Research Institute's Kidney Development, Disease and Regeneration research team.

Lorna was awarded the prize for Best Post-Doctoral Poster for her study entitled ‘Human iPSC derived glomeruli facilitate accurate modelling of podocytopathy’.