Current technologies and available scaffold materials do not support long-term cell viability, differentiation and maintenance of podocytes, the ultra-specialized kidney resident cells that are responsible for the filtration of the blood. We developed a new platform which imitates the native kidney microenvironment by decellularizing fibroblasts grown on surfaces with macromolecular crowding. Human immortalized podocytes cultured on this platform displayed superior viability and metabolic activity up to 28 days compared to podocytes cultured on tissue culture plastic surfaces. The new platform displayed a softer surface and an abundance of growth factors and associated molecules. More importantly it enabled podocytes to display molecules responsible for their structure and function and a superior development of intercellular connections/interdigitations, consistent with maturation. The new platform can be used to study podocyte biology, test drug toxicity and determine whether sera from patients with podocytopathies are involved in the expression of glomerular pathology.
Keywords: Podocytes; cell derived matrix; decellularization; extracellular matrix; kidney engineering.