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Exp Ther Med. 2016 Aug;12(2):641-648. Epub 2016 May 24.

Human embryonic mesenchymal stem cells participate in differentiation of renal tubular cells in newborn mice.

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Department of Nephrology, Affiliated Hospital of Nantong University, Nantong, Jiangsu 226001, P.R. China.
Department of Histology and Embryology, Research Center of Developmental Biology, Second Military Medical University, Shanghai 200433, P.R. China.


Stem cells are used with increasing success in the treatment of renal tubular injury. However, whether mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) differentiate into renal tubular epithelial cells remains controversial. The aims of the present study were to observe the localization of human embryonic MSCs (hMSCs) in the kidneys of newborn mice, and to investigate hMSC differentiation into tubular epithelium. Primary culture hMSCs were derived from 4-7-week-old embryos and labeled with the cell membrane fluorescent dye PKH-26. The degree of apoptosis, cell growth, differentiation and localization of hMSCs with and without this label were then determined using immunohistochemical methods and flow cytometry. hMSCs and PKH26-labeled hMSCs were revealed to differentiate into chondrocytes and adipocytes, and were demonstrated to have similar proliferative capability. In the two cell types, the antigens CD34 and CD45, indicative of hematopoietic lineages, were not expressed; however, the expression of the mesenchymal markers CD29 and CD90 in MSCs, was significantly increased. During a 4-week culture period, laser confocal microscopy revealed that PKH26-labeled hMSCs in the kidneys of newborn mice gradually dispersed. Two weeks after the injection of the PKH26-labeled cells, the percentage of PKH26-labeled hMSCs localized to the renal tubules was 10±2.1%. In conclusion, PKH26 labeling has no effect on hMSC differentiation, proliferation and mesenchymal cell surface features, and hMSCs injected into the kidneys of newborn mice may transform to renal tubule epithelium.


PKH-26; acute kidney injury; embryo; mesenchymal stem cells; renal tubular epithelium

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