Today (March 8) marks World Kidney Day and International Women’s Day, and Kidney Health Australia is applauding recent ground-breaking research, led by Murdoch Children’s Research Institute’s Professor Melissa Little with researchers from Australia and the Netherlands, which may go on to save thousands of Australian lives.

The impact of kidney disease is often underestimated. One in three Australians is at increased risk of developing kidney related disease, and 53 are dying with kidney related disease every day, yet most are tragically unaware they have it until it is too late.

Kidney Health Australia, which has contributed to funding Prof Melissa Little’s work for a number of years, are excited by what her research might mean to the many Australians who are affected by Chronic Kidney Disease.

In this breakthrough, Prof Little and her team of researchers from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) and the University of Melbourne, along with researchers from Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC) in The Netherlands, made an important step towards making human kidneys from stem cells that they one day hope can be used to treat kidney disease.

The research, welcomed by Kidney Health Australia, is part of a regenerative medicine project in which human stem cells are used to develop kidneys with functioning tissue as an alternative for kidney transplant.

“It is estimated that 1 in 10 Australians will show evidence of chronic kidney disease by 2020, but only 1 in 4 patients will receive a transplant, so the need for new therapies is critical,” says Dr Lisa Murphy, Interim CEO at Kidney Health Australia.

Prof Melissa Little is an ambassador for Kidney Health Week 2018, March 5 to 11. Professor Little first developed kidney tissue from stem cells in 2015, and in her new research, the Australian and Dutch teams transplanted a stem-cell derived kidney organoid into a living mouse. They were able to see blood flow through the filtration units of the human kidney organoid, and could observe connections between the blood vessels of the mouse and the human kidney tissue. After four weeks of transplantation, the kidney tubules and blood vessels showed evidence of fully developed adult kidney tissue.

“The fact that we can make kidney tissue from human stem cells and have this develop into mature kidney tissue after transplantation is a very promising step towards developing this further for treatment,” said Prof Melissa Little.

Kidney related disease kills more Australians each year than breast cancer, prostate cancer and road accidents combined, yet awareness of this silent killer remains low.

“One Australian dies every 27 minutes and 1.7 million are affected by chronic kidney disease but it is highly undiagnosed and less than ten percent of people who are affected know they have the disease,” Dr Murphy said.

According to Prof Little, there is a long way to go to make the tissue large enough for treatment, but knowing that it will begin to function is an important step along the way.

With Kidney Health Week running until March 11, Kidney Health Australia is urging everyone to see if they are one of the ‘one in three’ people living in Australia who is at increased risk of developing chronic kidney disease by taking a simple online test at .

Available for interview:

Both Professor Melissa Little and Dr Lisa Murphy

  • Professor Melissa Little, Theme Director of Cell Biology at MCRI
  • Dr Lisa Murphy, Interim CEO, Kidney Health Australia


About Kidney Health Australia

 Kidney Health Australia, formerly the Australian Kidney Foundation, is a national health care charity and peak body with a vision ‘to save and improve the lives of Australians affected by kidney disease. In 2018, Kidney Health Australia celebrates its 50th anniversary.

For media enquiries, please contact:

Tamara Jenkins, Esencia Communications



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