How “exosomes” target injured kidney cells and bring them back to life

December 20, 2018

Dr. Kevin BurnsDr. Kevin Burns

The kidneys are one of the most sensitive organs in the body. They are often the first to shut down during a critical illness like septic shock and the last to come back (if they come back at all).

Dr. Kevin Burns and his team previously found that “exosomes” released from progenitor cells in human umbilical cord blood can prevent kidney cells from dying during this kind of acute injury. Their latest research, published in Scientific Reports, helps explain how it works.

They found that injured kidney cells release a protein called SDF-1alpha, which attracts the exosomes through a protein called CXCR4. So when the exosomes are injected intravenously into mice with acute kidney injury, they target just the kidney and deliver certain healing factors.

This research may offer new ways to repair acute kidney injury, which affects one in 20 hospitalized patients.

“The kidneys are one of our most sensitive organs, and often the first to shut down during a critical illness. Our research may offer new ways to heal them," said Dr. Kevin Burns, senior scientist and kidney specialist at The Ottawa Hospital and professor at the University of Ottawa.

Authors: Viñas JL, Spence M, Gutsol A, Knoll W, Burger D, Zimpelmann J, Allan DS, Burns KD.

Funding: Research at The Ottawa Hospital is possible because of generous donations to The Ottawa Hospital Foundation. This study was also supported by the Kidney Foundation of Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

The Ottawa Hospital: Inspired by research. Driven by compassion Exosomes are tiny membrane-bound vesicles released by cells. Courtesy of J. Viñas and K. Burns.

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