A study published in the journal Nature Materials describes how scientists from the Institute of Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) generated organoids (cells grown in specific 3Denvironments, creating mini, simplified organs) that resemble human embryonic kidney during the second trimester of pregnancy. The work reveals that these three-dimensional cultures mimic fundamental aspects during the formation of the kidney, such as the distribution, functionality and specific organization of the cells.
The research was led by Núria Montserrat, principal researcher at the IBEC; and included the collaboration of Hospital Clínic de Barcelona, the Higher Council for Scientific Research, the University of Barcelona and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in the US have.
The new organoid allows generating fundamental knowledge about how this organ is developed and, at the same time, facilitates the design of experiments focused on the screening of therapeutic compounds intended for kidney regeneration.
To carry out this process, the authors have used pluripotent stem cells with which they have been able to recreate the embryonic development of the kidney (until the second trimester of gestation), and have generated the mini-kidneys simulating the hardness of the embryonic microenvironment through the use of biomaterials.
“One of the crucial aspects in organoids research is to develop a methodology that allows their maturation in a culture dish, so that they resemble the adult organ. Therefore, it is essential to provide these mini-organs, among other things, with a vascular network, essential to facilitate the exchange of nutrients and ensure their functionality,” says Montserrat.
A promising strategy
To overcome this obstacle, the researchers implanted the mini-kidneys in the embryonic vasculature of a chicken; and after a few days, they observed that the mini-kidney developed endothelial cells and showed structural evidence that indicated a better differentiation within these 3D structures.
This type of approach represents a promising strategy for the development of biofunctional tissues, which can be used for both finding new drugs and for the development of personalized medicine. “We anticipate that this procedure can be applied immediately in laboratories that work in modelling of kidney diseases,” adds Montserrat.