Stem cell pioneer presented national award for innovative approaches to creating new kidneys

Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI) Professor Melissa Little has received a national award for her cutting-edge stem cell research that aims to revolutionise treatment for children with kidney disease.

Professor Melissa Little

Announced today by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), Professor Little received the Marshall and Warren Ideas Grant Award, which is awarded to the highest-ranked, most innovative and most transformative NHMRC Ideas Grant.

Kidney failure affects 12 million patients across the globe and has been identified as one of the major chronic diseases of today. Despite this, treatment options have not changed in more than 70 years.

Professor Little is recognised internationally for her groundbreaking research on stem cell-derived kidneys which she is using to model kidney disease and develop new therapies.

Professor Little said, "creating human kidney tissue to treat renal failure is a mammoth task, yet the progress we have made to date is groundbreaking."

"Our group have shown that we can engineer replacement kidney tissue that, when transplanted into animal models, begin to filter the blood. The problem is there is no path for urine exit the body."

In this grant, her team will apply cutting-edge approaches, including cellular bioprinting, where a 3D "cell printer" is used to build up tissues from individual cells. The project will focus on inducing connections between the engineered kidney tissue and the underlying host kidney tissue to improve prototypes for transplantation.

Through our research, we hope to move one step closer to generating a replacement kidney for patients," Professor Little said.

Professor Little is internationally recognised for her work on kidney development. In addition to her MCRI appointments, she is the CEO of the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Stem Cell Medicine and the President of the International Society for Stem Cell Research. Professor Little is a Fellow of both the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences.

Grant application number: APP2011314