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Researchers looking at new way to treat chronic kidney disease and heart failure

Toronto, October 16, 2013

By Leslie Shepherd

Dr. Darren Yuen
Dr. Darren Yuen Dr. Richard Gilbert
Dr. Richard Gilbert

Researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital are using adult bone marrow stem cells as they investigate a completely new way of treating chronic kidney disease and heart failure in rats.

Dr. Darren Yuen and Dr. Richard Gilbert were the first to show, in 2010, that enriched stem cells improved heart and kidney function in rats with both diseases.

But they and other scientists wondered about the potential side effects of returning those cells to the body, such as forming tumours.

In a paper published online today in the journal Stem Cells, Drs. Yuen and Gilbert said they have since found that enriched bone marrow stem cells secrete hormones in the petri dish that, if injected into rats, has the same positive impact as the stem cells.

“We’ve shown that we can use these hormones, collected in the dish, to replicate the beneficial effects of the stem cells in treating animals with chronic kidney disease and heart failure,” said Dr. Yuen, a nephrologist. “In our view, this is a significant advance for stem cell therapies because it gets around having to inject stem cells.”

Dr. Yuen said they do not yet know what kind of hormone the cells are secreting. Identifying the hormone would be the first step toward the goal of developing a synthetic drug.

Chronic kidney disease is much more prevalent than was once believed, with recent estimates suggesting that up to 5 per cent of the Canadian population may be affected. The number of people with CKD and end-stage renal failure is expected to rise as the population ages and more people develop Type 2 diabetes. People with kidney disease often develop heart disease, and many of them die from heart failure rather than kidney failure.

About St. Michael’s Hospital

St Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

Media contacts

For more information, or to arrange an interview with Dr. Yuen or Dr. Gilbert, contact:

Leslie Shepherd
Manager, Media Strategy
416-864-6094
shepherdl@smh.ca