Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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A Clean Look

Vascularised 3D-printed tubules enable realistic kidney function and disease modelling

29 April 2019

A Clean Look

Like the body’s long-suffering housekeeper, the kidneys endlessly clean up our internal mess. Sifting through our blood, they filter out unwanted waste before returning vital nutrients via specialised structures called proximal tubules. These tubules are essential to good health, and serious illnesses can result from any malfunction, but there’s much we don’t we know about them. To spare human or animal participants, researchers increasingly turn to artificial recreations of biological situations for their investigations. Producing realistic kidney components in a lab isn’t straightforward however, and previous attempts have lacked the 3D structure of real kidneys. A new approach allows researchers to 3D-print proximal tubules (stained green) alongside blood vessels (red), and directly observe the reabsorption process in real time. Initial studies have already investigated the effects of hyperglycaemia, a condition associated with diabetes, suggesting the tool could help us get a clear look at one the body’s most crucial components.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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