A new clinical trial has been launched using stem cells to slow the progression of kidney disease caused by diabetes.
NHS Blood and Transplant is to grow stromal stem cells to create around 800 million cells ready for use in patients.
Stromal stem cells can differentiate into a variety of cell types such as bone cells, cartilage cells and fat cells.
In the case of diabetic kidney disease, the stem cells are thought to work by reducing inflammation in the kidney.
Kidney disease affects around 75% people with diabetes at some point and develops slowly, over many years.
Tests in animals have shown that a single injection of stem cells was enough to substantially slow the rate of progression of diabetic kidney disease.
A clinical trial has now been launched involving 48 patients with Type 2 diabetes at sites including the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust and Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.
Professor Timothy O'Brien, the project leader and director of the Regenerative Medicine Institute at the National University of Ireland Galway, said: "The cells work by reducing inflammation in the kidney.
"From the patient's perspective, the aim is that you can halt progression of the disease towards end stage kidney disease."
He said healthcare systems were facing a "huge task in managing the complications caused by ever-increasing numbers of patients with diabetes.
"Chief among such complications will be kidney disease, which has a huge financial cost in terms of current treatments, and takes a massive personal toll on patients.
"Diabetes is currently the most common cause of end stage kidney disease resulting in the need for dialysis or transplantation.
"We are confident that by harnessing the most modern approaches in stromal cell therapeutics there may well be a way to halt the progression of diabetic kidney disease using this therapy."
Dr Richard Elliott, research communications manager at Diabetes UK, said: "Kidney disease can happen to anyone but it is much more common in people with diabetes, with about three in four people with diabetes being affected at some point during their life.
"Diabetes is the leading cause of end stage kidney disease requiring dialysis or transplant, despite the fact that kidney disease in people with diabetes develops very slowly over many years.
"There is an urgent need for new treatments to help us manage kidney disease more effectively, so we will await the results of this trial with interest."