Organoids offer stem cell experts a window into kidney disease

14 Apr 2014

A University of Queensland researcher will explain how she is using organoids, lab-grown models of human organs, to better understand kidney disease in a live public webcast and question time at 7am AEST Wednesday April 16.

Professor Melissa Little, from UQ’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience, has been studying renal disease for more than 15 years and is currently using human embryonic stem cells to create tiny buds of tissue that resemble embryonic kidneys.

She and her team hope to push the kidney organoids down the developmental pathway to fully functional organs, in the process learning more about normal kidney function and development of disease.

Professor Little said the rates of chronic kidney disease have risen over the past few decades due to conditions including diabetes, hypertension, immune-mediated disease and cardiovascular disease.

“Organoids are exciting because they allow us to mimic early human kidney development much better than mouse models,” Professor Little said. 

“They allow us to replicate the types of mutations found in specific patients, which will eventually allow us to develop more personalised treatments. 

“Kidney organoids may become models for testing whether experimental drugs are toxic to the human kidney, a critical step in the drug development process.”

Stem cell researchers have also created brain, thymus, liver, intestine, and eye organoids.

The International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) is hosting a free public webcast, entitled “Exploring Organoids: Growing a Kidney in a Dish,” on April 16, from 7am – 7:30am AEST. 

Professor Little will present an overview of current research and its potential and will field questions from participants in a talk titled ‘Exploring organoids: growing a kidney in a dish’

The event will be available via the ISSCR Connect Public Channel at

Interested participants are encouraged to register in advance.

To discuss commercial opportunities associated with this research, contact Dr Mark Ashton on or +61 (07) 3346 2186.

About the International Society for Stem Cell Research (

The International Society for Stem Cell Research is an independent, nonprofit membership organization established to promote and foster the exchange and dissemination of information and ideas relating to stem cells, to encourage the general field of research involving stem cells and to promote professional and public education in all areas of stem cell research and application.

About the Institute for Molecular Bioscience

The Institute for Molecular Bioscience (IMB) is a research institute of The University of Queensland that aims to improve quality of life by advancing medical genomics, drug discovery and biotechnology.

Media contact: IMB Communications Manager Bronwyn Adams, 0418 575 247, 07 3346 2134,