Medical Moment: Making old organs new again

It is a list that no one wants to be on, but more than 90,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant right now. One doctor is now working on a way to reduce that list to zero.

Dr. Roger De Filippo works at the Saban Research Institute and says his research has never been done before. Inside his Los Angeles lab, Dr. De Filippo is using stem cells taken from amniotic fluid to heal damaged kidneys.

"What we found was the cells were able to regenerate the normal tissue in the kidney and become part of the kidney,” said the doctor.

The stem cells can actually help the dying organ, and Dr. De Filippo’s research has produced many regenerated kidneys. He believes the same stem cells could be injected directly into a patient’s diseased organ and have the same reparative results.

The cells could become part of the organ, and as the doctor says, “even regenerate the necessary building blocks of that organ.”

It could change the future for people suffering from acute kidney disease, diabetes, and other genetic disorders by slowing down the progressing of the disease.

Dr. De Filippo is clear to distinguish between embryonic and amniotic stem cells. The type he uses—amniotic stem cells—are collected after childbirth and there is an endless supply of them.

Amniotic stem cells can not only be used for kidneys, but they can adapt to any other type of organ as well.

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BACKGROUND: An organ transplant replaces the failing organ with a healthy organ. Organs most often transplanted include:
* The kidney, resulting from diabetes, lupus, polycystic kidney disease, or other problems
* The liver, resulting from cirrhosis
* The pancreas, resulting from diabetes
* The heart, resulting from cardiomyopathy, coronary artery disease, heart failure, and other heart complications.
* The lung, resulting from COPD, cystic fibrosis, and other problems.
* The small intestine, resulting from short bowel syndrome caused by necrotizing enterocolitis, Crohn's disease, and other problems.

Not everyone is a good candidate for an organ transplant. Infection, drug or alcohol abuse, heart disease that is out of control and other serious health problems will disqualify someone from receiving an organ transplant. The United States has been doing organ transplants since the 1950s. The procedure has not stopped improving since then. (Source:

HOW TO PREPARE: The first step in an organ transplant procedure is finding a match by conducting blood and tissue tests. This is done because the immune system may detect the new organ as foreign and reject it. The more matches with the donor, the greater the chances of the body accepting the donor organ. Patients who qualify for a transplant are advised to continue their medications, get regular blood tests, and to talk to a psychologist or psychiatrist about the transplant. (Source:

NEW TECHNOLOGY: Stem cells have been all over the news in the past and there is speculation over using stem cells to help with a serious disease. Stem cells are the body's raw materials (cells from which all other cells with specialized functions are generated from). Stem cells can divide to form daughter cells. The daughter cells can then become new stem cells or specialized cells with a more specific function, like brain cells, heart muscle, blood cells, or bone. Stem cells can come from amniotic fluid, adult cells altered to have properties of embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells, and embryonic stem cells.

In 2007, scientists discovered that stem cells can be found in amniotic fluid that's discarded after birth. Now researchers are able to take the stem cells from amniotic fluid to help fix a dying organ. This could provide an alternative to organ transplantation. Researchers hope that the amniotic cells can be frozen and banked in the same way blood is, and patients in need of blood vessel repair would be able to receive the cells through an injection. Also, they hope that the cells could be injected right into the dying organ to help repair it. They hope the cells could regenerate the tissues in the kidney and become part of the kidney. (Source:

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Ellin Kavanagh
Senior Public Information Officer
Children's Hospital Los Angeles
(323) 361-8505

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