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Fabricating a Kidney Cortex Extracellular Matrix-Derived Hydrogel

Published: October 13th, 2018



1Department of Bioengineering, University of Washington, 2Department of Bioengineering, Center for Cardiovascular Biology, Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, University of Washington, 3Department of Medicine, Kidney Research Institute, University of Washington

Here we present a protocol to fabricate a kidney cortex extracellular matrix-derived hydrogel to retain the native kidney extracellular matrix (ECM) structural and biochemical composition. The fabrication process and its applications are described. Finally, a perspective on using this hydrogel to support kidney-specific cellular and tissue regeneration and bioengineering is discussed.

Extracellular matrix (ECM) provides important biophysical and biochemical cues to maintain tissue homeostasis. Current synthetic hydrogels offer robust mechanical support for in vitro cell culture but lack the necessary protein and ligand composition to elicit physiological behavior from cells. This manuscript describes a fabrication method for a kidney cortex ECM-derived hydrogel with proper mechanical robustness and supportive biochemical composition. The hydrogel is fabricated by mechanically homogenizing and solubilizing decellularized human kidney cortex ECM. The matrix preserves native kidney cortex ECM protein ratios while also enabling gelation to physiological mechanical stiffnesses. The hydrogel serves as a substrate upon which kidney cortex-derived cells can be maintained under physiological conditions. Furthermore, the hydrogel composition can be manipulated to model a diseased environment which enables the future study of kidney diseases.

Extracellular matrix (ECM) provides important biophysical and biochemical cues to maintain tissue homeostasis. The complex molecular composition regulates both structural and functional properties of tissue. Structural proteins provide cells with spatial awareness and allow for adhesion and migration1. Bound ligands interact with cell surface receptors to control cell behavior2. Kidney ECM contains a plethora of molecules whose composition and structure varies depending on anatomical location, developmental stage, and disease state3,4. Recapitulating the complexi....

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Human kidneys were isolated by LifeCenter Northwest following ethical guidelines set by the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations. This protocol follows animal care and cell culture guidelines outlined by the University of Washington.

1. Preparation of Human Kidney Tissue

  1. Preparation of decellularization solution
    1. Sterilize a 5000 mL beaker and a 70 x 10 mm stir bar.
    2. Mix 1:1000 (weight:volume) sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) in autoclaved deionized water.......

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The kECM hydrogel provides a matrix for kidney cell culture with similar chemical composition as the native kidney microenvironment. To fabricate the hydrogel, kidney cortex tissue is mechanically isolated from a whole kidney organ and diced (Figure 1). Decellularization with a chemical detergent (Figure 2A.1-A.3) followed by rinses with water to remove detergent particles (Figure 2A.......

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Matrices provide important mechanical and chemical cues that govern cell behavior. Synthetic hydrogels are able to support complex 3-dimensional patterning but fail to provide the diverse extracellular cues found in physiological matrix microenvironments. Hydrogels derived from native ECM are ideal materials for both in vivo and in vitro studies. Previous studies have used decellularized ECM hydrogels to coat synthetic biomaterials to prevent host immunological responses33,<.......

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The authors would like to acknowledge the Lynn and Mike Garvey Imaging Laboratory at the Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine and LifeCenter NorthWest. They would also like to acknowledge the financial support of National Institutes of Health grants, UH2/UH3 TR000504 (to J.H.) and DP2DK102258 (to Y.Z.), NIH T32 training grant DK0007467 (to R.J.N.), and an unrestricted gift from the Northwest Kidney Centers to the Kidney Research Institute.


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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
Preparation of Kidney Tissue
5000 mL Beaker Sigma-Aldrich Z740589
Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate (SDS) Sigma-Aldrich 436143
Sterile H2O Autoclaved DI H2O
Stir Bar (70 x 10 mm) Fisher Science 14-512-128
500 mL Vacuum Filter VWR 97066-202
Stir Plate Sigma-Aldrich CLS6795420D
1000 mL Beaker Sigma-Aldrich CLS10031L
Forceps Sigma-Aldrich F4642 Any similar forceps may be used
Scissor-Handle Hemostat Clamp Sigma-Aldrich Z168866
Dissecting Scissors Sigma-Aldrich Z265977
Scalpel Handle, No. 4 VWR 25859-000 Any similar scalpel handle may be used
Scalpel Blade, No. 20 VWR 25860-020 Any similar scalpel blade may be used
Stir Bar (38.1 x 9.5 mm) Fisher Science 14-513-52
Absorbent Underpad VWR 82020-845
Petri Dish (150 x 25 mm) Corning 430597
Autoclavable Biohazard Bag VWR 14220-026
Sterile Cell Strainer (40 um) Fisher Science 22-363-547
Cell Culture Grade Water HyClone SH30529.03
30 mL Freestanding Tube VWR 89012-778
Fabrication of ECM Gel
Tissue Homogenizer Machine Polytron PCU-20110
Freeze Dryer Labconco 7670520
20 mL Glass Scintillation Vials and Cap Sigma-Aldrich V7130
Stir Bar (15.9 x 8 mm) Fisher Science 14-513-62
Pepsin from Porcine Gastric Mucosa Sigma-Aldrich P7012
0.01 N HCl Sigma-Aldrich 320331 Dilute to 0.01 N HCl with cell culuture water
Kidney ECM Gelation
1 N NaOH (Sterile) Sigma-Aldrich 415413 Dilute to 1 N in cell culture grade water
Medium 199 Sigma-Aldrich M4530
15 mL Conical Tube ThermoFisher 339651
Cell Culture Media ThermoFisher 11330.032 Dulbecco's Modified Eagle Medium: Nutrient Mixture F-12 (DMEM/F12)
Fetal Bovine Serum (FBS) Gibco 10082147
Antibiotic-Antimycotic 100X Life Technologies 15240-062
Insulin, Transferrin, Selenium, Sodium Pyruvate Solution (ITS-A) 100X Life Technologies 51300-044
1 mL Syringe Sigma-Aldrich Z192325
Microspatula Sigma-Aldrich Z193208

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