Researchers discover molecule in umbilical cord blood that helps the kidney heal after acute injury

September 28, 2016

Umbilical cord blood provides a rich source of stem cells that could potentially help to treat many diseases. Last year, Dr. Kevin Burns and his colleagues reported that a kind of stem / progenitor cell from umbilical cord blood could reduce injury and improve kidney function in a laboratory model of acute kidney injury. They also found that the beneficial effects of the cells were mediated through the release of small fluid-filled sacs, known as exosomes. Now, the research team has drilled down even further, showing that the exosomes only work because they contain a molecule called microRNA-486-5p (which is derived from what was once thought to be “junk” DNA). This molecule is thought to enter kidney cells and stall or stop cell death by targeting a gene called PTEN. See Kidney International for details. Acute kidney injury is a life-threatening condition that commonly occurs in patients with severe septic shock.

Authors: Jose L. Viñas, Dylan Burger, Joseph Zimpelmann, Randa Haneef, William Knoll, Pearl Campbell, Alex Gutsol, Anthony Carter, David S. Allan, Kevin D. Burns

Funders: The University of Ottawa Department of Medicine, The Ottawa Hospital, The Kidney Foundation of Canada, The Ottawa Hospital Foundation

The Ottawa Hospital: Inspired by research. Driven by compassion

The Ottawa Hospital is one of Canada’s largest learning and research hospitals with over 1,100 beds, approximately 12,000 staff and an annual budget of over $1.2 billion. Our focus on research and learning helps us develop new and innovative ways to treat patients and improve care. As a multi-campus hospital, affiliated with the University of Ottawa, we deliver specialized care to the Eastern Ontario region, but our techniques and research discoveries are adopted around the world. We engage the community at all levels to support our vision for better patient care. See for more information about research at The Ottawa Hospital.

University of Ottawa

The University of Ottawa is home to over 50,000 students, faculty and staff, who live, work and study in both French and English. Our campus is a crossroads of cultures and ideas, where bold minds come together to inspire game-changing ideas. We are one of Canada’s top 10 research universities—our professors and researchers explore new approaches to today’s challenges. One of a handful of Canadian universities ranked among the top 200 in the world, we attract exceptional thinkers and welcome diverse perspectives from across the globe.

For further information, please contact

Jennifer Ganton
Director, Communications and Public Relations
Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
Office: 613-798-5555 x 73325
Cell: 613-614-5253