BACKGROUND: Idiopathic nephrotic syndrome (INS) is one of the most common renal diseases in the pediatric population; considering the role of the immune system in its pathogenesis, corticosteroids are used as first-line immunosuppressive treatment. Due to its chronic nature and tendency to relapse, a significant proportion of children experience co-morbidity due to prolonged exposure to corticosteroids and concomitant immunosuppression with second-line, steroid-sparing agents. Mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) are multipotent cells that represent a key component of the bone marrow (BM) microenvironment; given their unique immunoregulatory properties, their clinical use may be exploited as an alternative therapeutic approach in INS treatment.
METHODS: In view of the possibility of exploiting their immunoregulatory properties, we performed a phenotypical and functional characterization of MSCs isolated from BM of five INS patients (INS-MSCs; median age, 13 years; range, 11-16 years) in comparison with MSCs isolated from eight healthy donors (HD-MSCs). MSCs were expanded ex vivo and then analyzed for their properties.
RESULTS: Morphology, proliferative capacity, immunophenotype and differentiation potential did not differ between INS-MSCs and HD-MSCs. In an allogeneic setting, INS-MSCs were able to prevent both T- and B-cell proliferation and plasma-cell differentiation. In an in-vitro model of experimental damage to podocytes, co-culture with INS-MSCs appeared to be protective.
DISCUSSION: Our results demonstrate that INS-MSCs maintain the main biological and functional properties typical of HD-MSCs; these data suggest that MSCs may be used in autologous cellular therapy approaches for INS treatment.