In Vivo Assessment of Laboratory-Grown Kidney Tissue Grafts

Bioengineering (Basel). 2023 Oct 29;10(11):1261. doi: 10.3390/bioengineering10111261.


Directed differentiation of stem cells is an attractive approach to generate kidney tissue for regenerative therapies. Currently, the most informative platform to test the regenerative potential of this tissue is engraftment into kidneys of immunocompromised rodents. Stem cell-derived kidney tissue is vascularized following engraftment, but the connection between epithelial tubules that is critical for urine to pass from the graft to the host collecting system has not yet been demonstrated. We show that one significant obstacle to tubule fusion is the accumulation of fibrillar collagens at the interface between the graft and the host. As a screening strategy to identify factors that can prevent this collagen accumulation, we propose encapsulating laboratory-grown kidney tissue in fibrin hydrogels supplemented with candidate compounds such as recombinant proteins, small molecules, feeder cells, and gene therapy vectors to condition the local graft environment. We demonstrate that the AAV-DJ serotype is an efficient gene therapy vector for the subcapsular region and that it is specific for interstitial cells in this compartment. In addition to the histological evaluation of epithelial tubule fusion, we demonstrate the specificity of two urine biomarker assays that can be used to detect human-specific markers of the proximal nephron (CD59) and the distal nephron (uromodulin), and we demonstrate the deposition of human graft-derived urine into the mouse collecting system. Using the testing platform described in this report, it will be possible to systematically screen factors for their potential to promote epithelial fusion of graft and host tissue with a functional intravital read-out.

Keywords: human urine biomarkers; kidney organoid; subcapsular engraftment.