Currently available renal replacement therapies are not optimal for most patients. In addition to the inherent shortage of transplant organs, significant complications are associated with renal transplantation and immunosuppressive therapy. Dialysis neglects the resorptive, homeostatic, metabolic, and endocrinologic functions of the kidney and only partially replaces its filtration properties, resulting in morbidity and mortality. Application of tissue-engineering techniques may improve many aspects of renal function replacement. Identification of the growth factors capable of directing tissue development and of the technique to be used for their delivery would aid in the engineering of human tissue. The combination of tissue-engineering strategies with gene therapy might allow the transfection of diseased tissues with designated cDNA to eliminate inherent or acquired defects. Devices that have been targeted at replacing a single aspect of renal function, in addition to three-dimensional renal units that are capable of excreting urine-like solutes, have been used experimentally. Combination of these strategies may allow the formation of tissue-engineered kidneys in the future.
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