Kidneys have been fashioned by scientists and observed functioning in rats.
A first step has also been made towards constructing human kidneys in the laboratory.
Scientists used a similar approach employed to produce bioengineered parts of hearts, lungs and livers.
The US team first took living cells from donor organs with a detergent solution, leaving a “scaffold” of collagen connective tissue.
The scaffold was then seeded with kidney cells from newborn rats, and human endothelial cells to replace the lining of blood vessels.
Next, the organs were cultured for up to 12 days in a “bioreactor” while being fed with oxygen and nutrients. During this time, the seedling cells grew and spread.
Laboratory tests showed that the constructed kidneys could filter blood and produce urine.
Study leader Dr Harald Ott, from Massachusetts General Hospital, whose work is reported in the journal Nature Medicine, said: “What is unique about this approach is that the native organ’s architecture is preserved, so that the resulting graft can be transplanted just like a donor kidney.”