Stem Cell Therapy for Kidney Failure: Comprehensive Overview (2023)

Louis A. Cona, MD
Updated on
May 18, 2023

Learn more about stem cell therapy for Kidney Disease. Delve into the latest research from placebo-controlled clinical trials to discover potential treatment strategies.

Stem Cell Therapy for Kidney Failure: Comprehensive Overview (2023)

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End-stage kidney disease, a severe form of chronic kidney failure, is a health crisis affecting millions worldwide. It often results from a progressive kidney disease journey, sometimes triggered by conditions like diabetic kidney disease. This deterioration, marked by a decline in the estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR), significantly impacts the patient's quality of life and is often associated with cardiovascular death.

Patients typically undergo dialysis treatment, a process that simulates the function of healthy kidneys. However, dialysis can only do so much. The frequency of treatment—often three times a week—is a significant burden for many patients. Furthermore, dialysis does not prevent the progression of kidney disease, and patients may eventually require kidney replacement therapy.

This is where stem cell therapy comes in, offering a beacon of hope for those suffering from kidney failure. In this article, we delve into the potential of stem cell therapy for treating kidney failure, exploring the science, the benefits, and the future of this promising field.

What is Kidney Failure?

Kidney failure, or end-stage renal disease (ESRD), is a significant health challenge. It's a condition where the kidneys lose their ability to filter waste and excess fluid from the blood, leading to a buildup of toxins. If left untreated, kidney failure can be life-threatening. This article explores the potential of stem cell therapy as a promising treatment for kidney failure.

Kidney failure is the last (most severe) chronic kidney disease (CKD) stage. At this stage, the kidneys function less than 10-15% of their standard capacity. Chronic kidney disease often progresses to kidney failure due to high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Causes of Kidney Failure

Kidney failure can be caused by various conditions that pressure the kidneys over time. The two most common causes are diabetes and high blood pressure. Other states, such as heart disease, liver disease, and certain urinary tract infections, can also lead to kidney failure.

Symptoms of Kidney Failure

Symptoms of kidney failure include fatigue, frequent urination, nausea, and shortness of breath. Patients may experience severe symptoms like chest pain or pressure, seizures, and reduced urine output as the condition worsens.

One of the key markers of kidney health is the urine albumin creatinine ratio (UACR). A higher ratio can indicate serious urinary tract infections or severe kidney damage. Moreover, patients with kidney disease often experience debilitating immune system disorders, contributing to the risk of hospitalization for heart failure or, in the worst cases, kidney death.

Doctors often prescribe SGLT2 inhibitors to patients with kidney disease, which can help lower blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular death. However, these medications can also cause side effects and are ineffective in all patients. Therefore, new treatment strategies are urgently needed to offer better kidney protection and slow kidney disease progression.


Is there a Cure for Kidney Disease?

Currently, there is no definitive cure for kidney disease. The goal of treatment is primarily to slow the progression of the disease and manage symptoms to improve quality of life.

Critical aspects of managing kidney disease include blood pressure control and managing other conditions that can contribute to kidney function decline, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Medications such as angiotensin receptor blockers can lower blood pressure and protect the kidneys.

It's important to note that the primary outcome in managing kidney disease is not just to prolong life, but also to enhance the quality of life for patients. This includes increasing the production of red blood cells to prevent anemia, a common complication in kidney disease that can cause fatigue and weakness.

Research is ongoing to find more effective treatments for kidney disease. For instance, placebo-controlled clinical trials are being conducted to test new medications and therapies. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet and regular exercise, is also essential to support overall kidney health.

While kidney disease can be managed, it is complex, similar to difficult-to-treat cancers and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's. The kidney's intricate network of blood vessels and the multi-functional nature of the organ make it a challenging disease to treat.

Individual patient experiences can vary widely, so it's crucial to have open, ongoing conversations with healthcare providers to understand the best course of action for managing kidney disease.

Traditional Treatments for Kidney Failure

The traditional treatments for kidney failure include dialysis or kidney transplantation.


Dialysis is a treatment that mimics the function of healthy kidneys. It removes waste and excess fluid from the blood when the kidneys can no longer do so. However, dialysis is not a cure and can carry risks like infection and blood clots.

Kidney Transplant

A kidney transplant involves surgically placing a healthy kidney from a donor into a person with kidney failure. While transplants can offer a better quality of life than dialysis, they also come with risks and the need for life-long medication to prevent rejection of the new kidney.

stem cell therapy for kidney disease

The Emergence of Stem Cell Therapy

Stem cell therapy is an innovative treatment option that has made waves in the medical world. It shows promise in treating a variety of diseases, including kidney failure.

What is Stem Cell Therapy?

Stem cell therapy involves using stem cells to repair or replace damaged cells and tissues. Stem cells have the unique ability to develop into many different types of cells in the body, including kidney cells. Learn more about different types of stem cells and their functions.

How Can Stem Cells Treat Kidney Disease?

In kidney disease, stem cell therapy aims to reduce inflammation by modulating the immune system, additionally promoting the cells to replace damaged kidney cells with new ones, helping restore the kidney's filtering function. This innovative approach could offer a potential cure for kidney disease, particularly for those who are not suitable candidates for a kidney transplant.

Stem cell treatment for kidney failure

Stem Cell Therapy for Kidney Disease

Mesenchymal stem cell-based therapy (MSC) offers a promising solution for kidney disease, with extensive research supporting its potential in this field. MSCs are multipotent cells that can be sourced from various tissues and, when utilized in therapy for kidney disease, can significantly improve health-related quality of life compared to dialysis. Delivery of MSCs to kidneys can be carried out through various routes, making it a versatile treatment option.

In kidney transplantation for end-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients, MSC therapy has shown potential for increasing survival rates and improving post-surgical outcomes. A study in which MSCs were infused intravenously along with immunosuppressive drugs in ESRD patients demonstrated its safety and feasibility.

Fundamentally, MSC-based therapy has the potential to revolutionize the treatment of kidney diseases and their related complications. Ongoing research and clinical trials continue to explore the optimal ways to harness the potency and regenerative capabilities of MSCs, thereby paving the way for breakthroughs in improving the lives of patients suffering from kidney disease.

How do Stem Cells Help Kidney Disease?

MSCs are a well-defined and easily accessible cell population with promising therapeutic properties, as demonstrated by numerous experimental models of kidney diseases. These cells act mainly through immunomodulatory and paracrine effects, and various clinical trials have been conducted to understand their safety, feasibility, and efficacy in treating renal pathologies.

However, challenges remain regarding long-term follow-up data and achieving consensus on therapeutic protocols, including MSC preparation, donor criteria, and immunosuppressive treatments for kidney transplant recipients. Further research is needed to determine the optimal approach for harmony in clinical practices. There is potential for enhancing MSCs' innate reparative capabilities through preconditioning or genetic modification, which may open up new avenues in therapeutic fields.

The Efficacy of Stem Cell Therapy for Kidney Failure

Using stem cells to treat kidney failure is still exploratory, but early clinical trial results are promising.

Clinical Trials and Their Findings

Clinical trials have shown that stem cells can regenerate kidney tissue and improve animal kidney function. However, more research is needed to understand how to apply these findings to humans.

Real-World Cases

While large-scale, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials are the gold standard for proving the efficacy of a treatment, many individual cases show promising results with stem cell therapy. For instance, there have been reports of patients with kidney disease experiencing improvements after receiving stem cell treatments.


The Future of Stem Cell Therapy for Kidney Failure

As we progress, stem cell therapy shows immense potential for treating various conditions, including kidney failure. Here, we will look into the possible future directions of this innovative treatment.

Advancements in Stem Cell Research

Scientific research is ongoing to improve the effectiveness of stem cell therapy for kidney failure. This includes understanding how stem cells can best be harvested, grown, and implanted to benefit kidney disease patients. Recent advancements in genetic medicine and innovative clinical trials pave the way for more effective and safe stem cell treatments.

Overcoming Challenges

While stem cell therapy holds much promise, significant challenges must be overcome. This includes regulatory hurdles, ethical considerations, and ensuring treatments are safe and effective. As we continue to learn more about stem cells and their potential applications, we can expect to see progress in these areas. Learn more about stem cell therapy regulations and protocols.

How Stem Cell Therapy Could Change Kidney Failure Treatment

If stem cell therapy proves to be a successful treatment for kidney failure, it could revolutionize the field of nephrology.

Reducing the Need for Dialysis and Transplants

One of stem cell therapy's most significant potential benefits is that it could reduce the need for dialysis and kidney transplants. This could significantly improve the quality of life for kidney disease patients.

Meeting Unmet Medical Needs

Kidney failure is a significant health challenge that affects millions of people worldwide. New treatments are needed to slow disease progression and improve patients' quality of life. Stem cell therapy could help meet this unmet medical need.

The Role of Lifestyle in Kidney Health

While medical treatments are crucial, lifestyle changes can also significantly manage kidney disease and promote kidney health.

Dietary Choices and Kidney Health

Certain foods can place additional stress on the kidneys. Patients can help manage their symptoms and slow disease progression by choosing kidney-friendly foods.

Exercise and Kidney Health

Regular physical activity can also help maintain kidney health. Exercise can help control blood pressure and blood sugar levels, two critical factors in kidney disease.


Comparing Costs: Stem Cell Therapy vs. Traditional Treatments

One of the main questions people ask is, "How much does stem cell therapy cost for kidney failure?" To answer this, we need to compare it with the cost of traditional treatments.

The Cost of Dialysis

The cost of dialysis varies greatly, but it's often relatively high. Most patients require dialysis three times a week, and each session can cost hundreds of dollars.

The Cost of Kidney Transplant

The cost of a kidney transplant, including pre-surgery tests, the surgery itself, and post-surgery care, can be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The Cost of Stem Cell Therapy

The cost of stem cell therapy can vary widely depending on the specifics of the treatment. Some treatments may cost as much as a kidney transplant, but others may be more affordable. Learn more about stem cell therapy cost.

The Best Places for Stem Cell Treatment

Many places globally offer stem cell treatment, but choosing a reputable clinic is essential. The Cayman Islands is known for its advanced medical facilities and top-notch care, making it a popular choice for stem cell treatment. Discover more about the unique experiences in the Cayman Islands.

Natural Ways to Support Kidney Health

In addition to medical treatments, there are natural ways to support kidney health and potentially slow the progression of kidney disease.

Dietary Changes

Eating a diet low in sodium, potassium, and phosphorus can help keep your kidneys healthier for longer. It's also crucial to control blood sugar and blood pressure levels.

Herbal Remedies

Some herbs, such as astragalus and dandelion, may help improve kidney function. Always consult your doctor before starting any herbal remedies.

Kidney Cleanse Teas

Certain teas, like stinging nettle and hydrangea tea, are believed to cleanse the kidneys and promote kidney health. However, more research is needed to confirm these benefits.


Stem Cell Kidney Repair

Kidney failure is a condition that affects over 660,000 Americans and leads to nearly 47,000 deaths each year. Although there are many causes of kidney failure, the current treatment is relatively similar. Patients often need weekly dialysis at the cost of approximately $80,000 annually while waiting in the lengthy list for a transplant. Fortunately, advances in stem cell science have led to some findings that show promise in the treatment of kidney failure.  

Healthy functioning kidneys filter waste and excess fluids from the body. However, various conditions can damage the kidneys, resulting in excess fluids, waste, and electrolytes accumulating. This can cause a wide range of adverse reactions in the body. Although the kidneys have a limited regenerative capability on their own, eventually, the damage caused by kidney disease overwhelms the organs. The result is a patient that becomes dependent on external dialysis to live, and eventually, whole organ transplant. Causes of kidney disease vary, but almost half of all kidney failure cases are caused by diabetes.

How do stem cells help kidney disease?

Stem cell therapy is highly anti-inflammatory, reducing levels of chronic inflammation within the body to levels that allow healing to occur when it was otherwise inhibited. In terms of Kidney Disease, the levels of inflammation would be high throughout the body. By lowering inflammation markers to normal levels, the body can begin to regenerate the tissue required for normal function.

Stem cell therapy for kidney failure

Scientists are working toward finding a way to supplement the cells in the kidneys that lead to organ regeneration. Harvard Stem Cell Institute researchers have recently identified specific mesenchymal cells, a type of stem cell that plays a significant role in kidney healing. These stem cells can be transplanted into the body to promote the regeneration of damaged kidney tissue and reduce overall inflammation. Additionally, stem cells have already been used in conjunction with organ transplants to eliminate the need for a lifetime of immunosuppressant drugs. 


Can stem cells cure kidney disease?

Kidney Disease is challenging to study and correct, as the kidneys are very complicated organs that provide vital filtration functions within the body. Currently, only general systemic stem cell therapy is available to tackle these issues, as scientists have yet to isolate the specific cells responsible for kidney repair. 

A reasonable outcome of a stem cell therapy would be the marked reduction in inflammatory markers when compared to pre-treatment levels and a marginal increase in kidney function. This would likely not be sufficient to remove a patient from dialysis after one therapy, but the hope would be to reduce dialysis frequency. 

Learn more about DVC Stem

DVC Stem is a stem cell therapy pioneer, offering stem cell therapies for years and has become a cornerstone of the medical tourism industry. Located in the tropical paradise of Grand Cayman in the Western Caribbean, we offer patients a nearby alternative to traveling long distances and to less ideal locations. Our protocols are IRB approved, and our cells come from regulated, U.S. based, FDA compliant laboratories. We seek to offer the highest quality products, the latest available treatments for a variety of conditions, all combined with a world-class setting and service.


The journey from kidney biopsy to renal failure is fraught with significant health challenges, marked by a sustained decline in kidney function. Clinical practice treating kidney diseases like diabetes mellitus traditionally involves the antihypertensive treatment, ACE inhibitors, and angiotensin II receptor blockers to control blood pressure. However, as kidney function declines, patients commonly enter a kidney phase where maintenance dialysis becomes necessary.

Cardiovascular outcomes remain a primary concern in patients with renal failure, with known cardiovascular disease presenting a high cardiovascular mortality risk. These cardio-kidney metabolic conditions also exacerbate other health issues like Alzheimer's, underscoring the need for effective treatment options.

Stem cell therapy offers a promising alternative, moving beyond the standard of care typically recommended by the American Diabetes Association and other organizations. As we've seen in placebo-controlled clinical trials, there's a statistically significant improvement in renal function and kidney outcomes, including an increase in the eGFR— a critical measure of kidney health.

Moreover, this innovative treatment can potentially lower blood pressure, improve glycemic control, and increase the production of red blood cells—benefits that are particularly important for patients with anemia or diabetes care needs.

Beyond the kidney, there's evidence that stems cell therapy can help treat other conditions, from complex to treat cancers to respiratory medicine, even in treating obesity. This holistic approach to health is critical to the fight against complex diseases.

However, it's worth noting that stem cell therapy is not a one-size-fits-all solution. The risk of kidney disease varies from person to person, and the absolute risk reduction achieved through stem cell therapy will also differ.

As we move towards another insightful kidney week, the future of stem cell therapy is bright, offering hope for millions of people worldwide. The road ahead is long, but the potential benefits of stem cell therapy make it a worthwhile journey.

Ultimately, stem cell therapy opens up new avenues for understanding and treating kidney failure, promising patients a better quality of life and heralding a new era in medical science.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can stem cell therapy cure kidney failure?

The use of stem cells to treat kidney failure is still experimental, but early clinical trial results are promising.

What is the most effective treatment for kidney failure?

The most effective treatments for kidney failure are dialysis and kidney transplants. However, stem cell therapy could offer a new, potentially more effective treatment option.

Can you regain kidney function after kidney failure?

It depends on the extent of the damage. Sometimes, lifestyle changes and medication can help restore kidney function. Stem cell therapy could potentially help regenerate kidney tissue and improve kidney function.

Can Stage 4 kidney damage be reversed?

Stage 4 kidney disease is severe and usually cannot be completely reversed. However, treatment can help slow the progression of the disease and manage symptoms.

Can kidney function improve without dialysis?

Yes, in some cases, kidney function can improve with medication and lifestyle changes. However, in severe cases, dialysis may be necessary to help the kidneys filter waste from the body.


(1) Peired, A. J., Sisti, A., & Romagnani, P. (2016). Mesenchymal stem cell-based therapy for kidney disease: A review of clinical evidence. Stem Cells International, 2016, Article ID 4798639.

(2) Chung BH. Use of mesenchymal stem cells for chronic kidney disease. Kidney Res Clin Pract. 2019 Jun 30;38(2):131-134. doi: 10.23876/j.krcp.19.051. PMID: 31189218; PMCID: PMC6577207.

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