Editorial by Hermann Haller, M.D., and Iain Drummond, Ph.D.
The world is facing an epidemic of kidney disease due to the increased prevalence of two major risk factors, diabetes and high blood pressure. In the USA alone, approximately 38 million adults – or about 15% of the adult population – suffer from kidney disease. Although the long-term consequences remain to be seen, the burden of kidney disease may be exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is known to cause damage to these vital organs.
This bleak scenario is compounded by the limitations of current treatments for end-stage renal disease. Dialysis, which requires the patient to be tethered to a machine that cleanses the blood of waste, is enormously costly and places a huge burden on the lifestyles of patients and their families. There simply aren’t enough donors to meet the need for transplants: more than 100,000 people in the USA alone were waiting for a kidney in 2016 (the latest year for which statistics are available) .
All of which has created enormous pressure to find other solutions. In the USA, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK; MD, USA), an Institute of the National Institutes of Health, is addressing this need through its support of the (Re)Building a Kidney (RBK) consortium, a national collaboration of about 100 scientists dedicated…