An assistant professor at the University of Connecticut works with stem cells. Researchers have found that ovarian stem cells in adult women can be used to produce new eggs, in a study published in Nature Medicine on February 26, 2012.
Credit: Spencer Platt

In a breakthrough for modern medicine, researchers in Japan have succeeded in growing human kidney tissue from stem cells.

Kenji Osafune of Kyoto University explained that his team was able to take stem cells and "nudge them" in the direction of kidney tissues, which have an especially complex structure, according to Agence France-Presse.

More than a million people suffer from renal disease. According to the National Kidney Foundation — because of how complex kidney tissue is — once it's been damaged, the tissue is extremely hard to repair.

Currently, people with failing kidneys rely on dialysis or organ transplants. Osafune's research could change that, although he cautions that his breakthrough is a preliminary step.

Stem cells, which are characterized by the ability to renew themselves into a diverse range of specialized cells, have been used in research to treat various diseases and disabilities.

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