Podocytes (glomerular visceral epithelial cells) cover the exterior surface of the glomerular capillaries and contribute to the glomerular filtration membrane. Failure of podocyte function is involved in the progression of chronic glomerular disease; accordingly, research interest into podocyte biology is driven by the need for better protection and perhaps recovery of these cells in renal diseases. This review aims at summarizing available techniques for podocyte cell cultures from both the past and present, with special attention to the currently used methods. The establishment of classical primary cultures is based on isolation of glomeruli by differential sieving. Plating of glomeruli onto a collagen surface is followed by an outgrowth of cobblestone-like cells that, after replating, differentiate into arborized, mature podocytes. Currently, the majority of research studies use immortalized podocytic cell lines most often derived from transgenic mice bearing a conditional immortalizing gene. The podocytes can also be collected and cultured from healthy or diseased animal or patient urine. The urinary podocytes obtained from subjects with active glomerulopathies display higher proliferation potential and viability in vitro, perhaps due to disease-induced transdifferentiation. Finally, a list of phenotypic markers useful for identification and characterization of the cultured podocytic elements is provided.
Copyright 2007 S. Karger AG, Basel.