BACKGROUND: Mesenchymal stromal cell (MSC)-based therapy is a promising strategy for preventing the progression of chronic kidney disease (CKD), with the potential to induce tissue regeneration. In search of the best cellular source we compared, in the rat model of adriamycin (ADR) nephropathy, the regenerative potential of human stromal cells of non-renal origin, such as bone marrow (bm) MSCs and umbilical cord (uc) MSCs, with that of newly discovered stromal cells of renal origin, the kidney perivascular cells (kPSCs) known to exhibit tissue-specific properties.
METHODS: The therapeutic effect of repeated infusions of human bmMSCs, ucMSCs, kPSCs (1.5 × 106 cells/rats) or conditioned medium from ucMSCs was studied in athymic rats with ADR-induced nephropathy (7.9 mg/kg). The ability of the three stromal cell populations to engraft the damaged kidney was evaluated by detecting the presence of human nuclear antigenpos cells. Glomerular podocyte loss and endothelial damage, sclerotic lesions and inflammation were assessed at 14 and 28 days. In-vitro experiments with a transwell system were performed to investigate the effects of different stromal cell populations on parietal epithelial cells (PECs) activated or not with albumin or angiotensin II for 24 h.
RESULTS: Infusions of non-renal and renal stromal cells resulted in a comparable engraftment into the kidney, in the peritubular areas and around the glomerular structures. All three cell populations limited podocyte loss and glomerular endothelial cell injury, and attenuated the formation of podocyte and PEC bridges. This translated into a reduction of glomerulosclerosis and fibrosis. Human ucMSCs had an anti-inflammatory effect superior to that of the other stromal cells, reducing macrophage infiltration and inducing polarisation towards the M2 macrophage phenotype. Conditioned medium from ucMSCs shared the same renoprotective effects of the cells. Consistent with in-vivo data, bmMSCs and kPSCs, but even more so ucMSCs, limited proliferation, migratory potential and extracellular matrix production of activated PECs, when cultured in a transwell system.
CONCLUSIONS: Our data indicate that either non-renal or renal stromal cells induce renal tissue repair, highlighting ucMSCs and their conditioned medium as the most reliable clinical therapeutic tool for CKD patients.