It’s sometimes been a controversial claim: that diseased kidneys can be regenerated, and that those facing dialysis or even transplants because of kidney disease may one day be able to have their kidneys healed instead. Some branches of non-traditional or non-Western medicine have actually had good success treating and even regenerating diseased kidneys with carefully crafted herbal treatments. But certainly the Western style of allopathic medicine has often been reluctant to consider the possibility of regeneration and healing, let alone actually embrace the idea.
However, there is now evidence, coming from Western medical research itself, that kidneys can indeed be regenerated. A team working through Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the University of Pittsburgh have discovered stem cells in zebra fish kidneys that can be transplanted into other zebra fish to generate new nephrons.
These nephrons are the filtering structures inside kidneys. In humans, because stem cells disappear around the time of birth, people lose the ability to regenerate these structures. But the information derived from research with the zebra fish suggests that there are indeed ways to regenerate diseased kidneys. The research may suggest different ways than those used in herbal medicine, but these results at least opens a door to considering what hasn’t been considered before. Western medical practitioners may now begin to reconsider the claims made by their counterparts practising natural medical treatments.
This work with zebra fish is just one of the ways that stem cell research is revolutionizing the practice of medicine. And even though the research comes from the more Western, allopathic side of the medical equation, there really doesn’t need to be an either/or choice about it. With the wellbeing of the person with kidney disease being the goal of all treatment, any insight that improves their health and may eventually lead to a cure can be a welcome development.