Natural scaffolds for renal differentiation of human embryonic stem cells for kidney tissue engineering

Cynthia A. Batchelder, Michele L. Martinez, Alice F Tarantal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Despite the enthusiasm for bioengineering of functional renal tissues for transplantation, many obstacles remain before the potential of this technology can be realized in a clinical setting. Viable tissue engineering strategies for the kidney require identification of the necessary cell populations, efficient scaffolds, and the 3D culture conditions to develop and support the unique architecture and physiological function of this vital organ. Our studies have previously demonstrated that decellularized sections of rhesus monkey kidneys of all age groups provide a natural extracellular matrix (ECM) with sufficient structural properties with spatial and organizational influences on human embryonic stem cell (hESC) migration and differentiation. To further explore the use of decellularized natural kidney scaffolds for renal tissue engineering, pluripotent hESC were seeded in whole-or on sections of kidney ECM and cell migration and phenotype compared with the established differentiation assays for hESC. Results of qPCR and immunohistochemical analyses demonstrated upregulation of renal lineage markers when hESC were cultured in decellularized scaffolds without cytokine or growth factor stimulation, suggesting a role for the ECM in directing renal lineage differentiation. hESC were also differentiated with growth factors and compared when seeded on renal ECM or a new biologically inert polysaccharide scaffold for further maturation. Renal lineage markers were progressively upregulated over time on both scaffolds and hESC were shown to express signature genes of renal progenitor, proximal tubule, endothelial, and collecting duct populations. These findings suggest that natural scaffolds enhance expression of renal lineage markers particularly when compared to embryoid body culture. The results of these studies show the capabilities of a novel polysaccharide scaffold to aid in defining a protocol for renal progenitor differentiation from hESC, and advance the promise of tissue engineering as a source of functional kidney tissue.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0143849
JournalPLoS One
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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