A fast and simple clearing and swelling protocol for 3D in-situ imaging of the kidney across scales

Kidney Int. 2021 Apr;99(4):1010-1020. doi: 10.1016/j.kint.2020.10.039. Epub 2020 Dec 5.


In recent years, many light-microscopy protocols have been published for visualization of nanoscale structures in the kidney. These protocols present researchers with new tools to evaluate both foot process anatomy and effacement, as well as protein distributions in foot processes, the slit diaphragm and in the glomerular basement membrane. However, these protocols either involve the application of different complicated super resolution microscopes or lengthy sample preparation protocols. Here, we present a fast and simple, five-hour long procedure for three-dimensional visualization of kidney morphology on all length scales. The protocol combines optical clearing and tissue expansion concepts to produce a mild swelling, sufficient for resolving nanoscale structures using a conventional confocal microscope. We show that the protocol can be applied to visualize a wide variety of pathologic features in both mouse and human kidneys. Thus, our fast and simple protocol can be beneficial for conventional microscopic evaluation of kidney tissue integrity both in research and possibly in future clinical routines.

Keywords: IgA nephropathy; focal segmental glomerulosclerosis; podocyte; renal biopsy; renal pathology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Kidney Glomerulus*
  • Kidney* / diagnostic imaging
  • Mice
  • Microscopy