The discovery of tissue stem cells has launched the current boom in the field of regenerative research, which is tremendously exciting and holds enormous therapeutic potential. Despite such optimism, recent findings have tempered the potential for medical practice. Anatomically complicated organs, such as the kidney, have proved refractory to stem cell-based regenerative techniques. As the kidney has the capacity to regenerate after renal injury, investigations into the mechanisms underlying kidney organogenesis may provide the clues to solving the puzzle of complex organ regeneration. This article reviews the current understanding of kidney organogenesis and kidney stem cells, and discusses the potential of kidney organogenesis as a therapeutic strategy for renal failure.