Kidney Disease

Kidney disease occurs when the kidneys are damaged and can no longer properly filter blood.

Read more below about how stem cell research is helping in the fight against kidney disease.


  • Chronic kidney disease (CKD) occurs when kidney function progressively worsens over time. It is estimated that 37 million Americans have CKD; that is, 1 in 7 adults in our country, although most do not know they have it.
  • Chronic kidney disease has prevalent comorbidities: Two major causes of CKD are diabetes and high blood pressure. About 1 in 3 people with diabetes and 1 in 5 adults with high blood pressure have CKD. People with CKD have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and death at all stages of CKD.
  • 1 in 3 American adults are at risk for CKD, and minority groups face higher risks both for developing CKD as well as progressing from CKD to end-stage renal disease. Black Americans’ risk is roughly three times higher than for White Americans, Hispanic Americans are almost 1.3 times more likely to receive a diagnosis of kidney failure than non-Hispanics, and Asians and Native Americans have a higher prevalence than White Americans.
  • Dialysis is a treatment needed when end-stage kidney failure occurs, which typically equates with 85-90% loss of kidney function. In general, two types of dialysis are offered, depending on individual characteristics, though both are extremely intrusive to normal, healthy lives and can pose other health risks, such as increased difficulty in blood glucose regulation for diabetic patients, and an increased risk for infection for patients who use a catheter.

How Stem Cells Can be Used to Mitigate Kidney Disease

  • Stem cells can be used to help patients who are on dialysis or to provide immune tolerance for kidney transplantation. 
  • In the long term, stem cells could also be used to generate new kidneys for transplantation.

CIRM’s Progress: Selected Research Highlights

  • CIRM has funded six clinical trials in kidney disease across four California institutions. Some examples include:
    • In a Phase 3 clinical trial, Humacyte Inc. is taking a bioengineered vessel that was once coated with stem cells and implanting it to the arms of patients with kidney disease who need dialysis. The implanted vessel allows for more efficient dialysis and lower incidence of blood clots and infections.
    • In a Phase 3 clinical trial, Medeor Therapeutics is testing a stem cell-based treatment to eliminate the need for the aggressive immunosuppressive therapies currently used for kidney transplant patients. By introducing blood-forming stem cells and immune cells from the organ donor into the patient receiving the donor’s kidney, the patient is thought to better tolerate the transplant, even in the absence of immunosuppression.