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Belly Fat Stem Cells May Cure Chronic Kidney Disease

Update Date: Mar 21, 2014 05:55 PM EDT

Fatty folds may look unappealing, but new research reveals that fat tissue within the abdomen contain many stem cells that can help treat diseased kidneys, according to a new study.

Experiments on animals revealed that fusing stem cells from fatty fold tissue to bodily organs helped heal diseased kidneys in rats. Researchers said that latest findings suggest that stem cells taken from chronic kidney disease patients' own abdomens could be used to help preserve and improve kidney function.

Previous studies show that adult stem cells can potentially treat experimental acute kidney diseases. However, it is still unclear whether they could also cure chronic kidney diseases. An example of a this type of treatment would require injecting cells frequently for many months or years because stem cells die a few days after injection.

Lead researcher Ashok Singh, PhD., and his team wanted to see if connecting the omentum, a fatty fold of tissue that lies close to the kidney and contains abundant amounts of stem cells, to the kidney, would help treat rats with kidney disease.

"This maneuver allowed us to permanently lodge stem cells in contact with the diseased kidney," explained Singh.

The findings revealed that the omentum remained fused to the kidney, which showed signs of improved function after 12 weeks.

The progression of chronic kidney disease was slowed due to the continuous migration of stem cells from the omentum to the diseased kidney, resulting in healing of the kidney," Singh said in a news release.

Researchers said the findings show that stem cells are capable of slowing and even reversing chronic kidney disease.

"Attaching the omentum, a supposedly useless organ lying close to the kidney, to the diseased kidney could be put into practice after some more developmental work," explained Singh. "By this technique, patients would be using their own stem cells lying in the omentum to cure their kidneys without depending on outside sources of stem cells."

The findings are published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN).

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