Kidney disease

CIRM funds many projects seeking to better understand kidney disease and to translate those discoveries into new therapies.


Kidney disease affects more than 20 million Americans and the number at risk of getting the disease is much higher. Kidneys have a very important job in keeping your body healthy. They act as filters, cleaning the blood that circulates to all your organs and tissues, removing excess water and cellular waste products. They also help regulate your blood pressure. When kidneys are damaged or diseased, they can’t carry out these important functions and patients can suffer permanent damage to their health.

There are many diseases that affect kidney function. The main risk factors include diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and having a genetic predisposition. There is no cure for chronic kidney disease, which happens when kidney function progressively worsens over time, so doctors have turned to kidney replacement strategies including dialysis and kidney transplantation.

CIRM has funded research that could help people with kidney disease or kidney failure. Some of the work we’ve funded focuses on early stage research where scientists explore how to mature pluripotent stem cells into different types of kidney cells. The goal of this type of research is to gain a better understanding of kidney development and function, and to identify new stem cell-based therapies to treat kidney disease.

CIRM is also funding later stage research projects that are now in clinical trials. These involve stem cell-based therapies to improve the outcome of patients receiving kidney transplants and a bioengineered vein to help patients on dialysis. You can read more about our ongoing clinical trials below. 

Clinical Stage Programs

Humacyte Inc.

Humacyte has developed a bioengineered vein that will hopefully improve dialysis treatments for kidney disease patients. The artificial vein is implanted into a patient's arm and transfers blood from the body into an artificial kidney device that cleans the blood by removing waste products. Over time, the body's own stem cells populate the artificial vein and make it a part of the patient's body. Humacyte is testing this approach in a Phase III trial and hopes that the vein will prevent side effects associated with current dialysis devices including blood clots, infections and immune system rejection. 

Stanford University

A team at Stanford University will work with kidney transplant patients to see if injecting blood stem cells and T cells (which plays an important role in the immune system) from the kidney donor into the kidney recipient can enable the recipient to bypass a life-long dependence on immunosuppressant drugs, which are needed to prevent organ rejection.


CIRM Grants Targeting Kidney Disease

CIRM Videos About Kidney Disease