Kidney transplantation has been one of the major medical advances of the past 30 years. However, tissue availability remains a major obstacle. This can potentially be overcome by the use of undifferentiated or partially developed kidney precursor cells derived from early embryos and fetal tissue. Here, transplantation in mice reveals the earliest gestational time point at which kidney precursor cells, of both human and pig origin, differentiate into functional nephrons and not into other, non-renal professional cell types. Moreover, successful organogenesis is achieved when using the early kidney precursors, but not later-gestation kidneys. The formed, miniature kidneys are functional as evidenced by the dilute urine they produce. In addition, decreased immunogenicity of the transplants of early human and pig kidney precursors compared with adult kidney transplants is demonstrated in vivo. Our data pinpoint a window of human and pig kidney organogenesis that may be optimal for transplantation in humans.
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Acknowledgments Supported in part by a grant from Mrs. E. Drake and the Gabriella Rich Center for Transplantation Biology Research and the Edward H. Kass Award from the American Physicians Fellowship (B.D.). Y.R. holds the Henry H. Drake Professorial Chair in Immunology.