Journal of the American Society of Nephrology vol:27 issue:9
In humans, nephrogenesis is completed prenatally, with nephrons formed until 34 weeks of gestational age. We hypothesized that urine of preterm neonates born before the completion of nephrogenesis is a noninvasive source of highly potent stem/progenitor cells. To test this hypothesis, we collected freshly voided urine at day 1 after birth from neonates born at 31-36 weeks of gestational age and characterized isolated cells using a single-cell RT-PCR strategy for gene expression analysis and flow cytometry and immunofluorescence for protein expression analysis. Neonatal stem/progenitor cells expressed markers of nephron progenitors but also, stromal progenitors, with many single cells coexpressing these markers. Furthermore, these cells presented mesenchymal stem cell features and protected cocultured tubule cells from cisplatin-induced apoptosis. Podocytes differentiated from the neonatal stem/progenitor cells showed upregulation of podocyte-specific genes and proteins, albumin endocytosis, and calcium influx via podocyte-specific transient receptor potential cation channel, subfamily C, member 6. Differentiated proximal tubule cells showed upregulation of specific genes and significantly elevated p-glycoprotein activity. We conclude that urine of preterm neonates is a novel noninvasive source of kidney progenitors that are capable of differentiation into mature kidney cells and have high potential for regenerative kidney repair.