Background: The goals of this study were to characterize urine-derived stem cells obtained from the upper urinary tract (uUSC), induce these cells to differentiate into urothelial and smooth muscle cells, and determine whether they could serve as a potential stem cell source for bladder tissue engineering.
Materials and methods: Urine samples were collected from five patients with normal upper urinary tracts during renal pyeloplasty. Cells were isolated from this urine and extensively expanded in vitro.
Results: The mean population doubling of uUSC was 46.5±7.7. The uUSC expressed surface markers associated with mesenchymal stem cells and pericytes. These cells could differentiate into smooth muscle-like cells that expressed smooth muscle-specific gene transcripts and proteins, including α-smooth muscle actin, desmin, and myosin, when exposed to TGF-β1 and PDGF-BB. In a collagen lattice assay, these myogenic-differentiated uUSC displayed contractile function that was similar to that seen in native smooth muscle cells. Urothelial-differentiated uUSC expressed urothelial-specific genes and proteins such as uroplakin-Ia and -III, cytokeratin (CK)-7, and CK-13.
Conclusions: uUSC possess expansion and differentiation (urothelial and myogenic) capabilities, and can potentially be used as an alternative cell source in bladder tissue engineering for patients needing cystoplasty.