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Transdifferentiation of human adipose-derived stem cells into urothelial cells: potential for urinary tract tissue engineering


Autologous urothelial cells (UCs) provide a cell source for urinary tissue engineering because they can be used safely due to their lack of immunogenicity. However, these cells cannot be harvested under the following circumstances: malignancy, infection and organ loss, etc. Human adipose-derived stem cells (HADSCs) possess the traits of high differentiation potential and ease of isolation, representing a promising resource for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Nevertheless, HADSCs have been poorly investigated in urology and the optimal approaches to induce HADSCs into urothelium are still under investigation. In this study, we hypothesized that the change of microenvironment by a conditioned medium was essential for the transdifferentiation of HADSCs into UCs. We then used a conditioned medium derived from urothelium to alternate the microenvironment of HADSCs. After 14 days of culture in a conditioned medium, about 25–50% HADSCs changed their morphology into polygonal epithelium-like shapes. In addition, these cells expressed up-regulating of urothelial lineage-specific markers (uroplakin 2and cytokeratin-18) and down-regulating of mesenchymal marker (vimentin) in RNA and protein level, respectively, which confirmed that HADSCs were induced into urothelial lineage cells. We also measured the growth factors in the conditioned medium in order to analyze the molecular mechanisms regulating transdifferentiation. We observed that the expression levels of PDGF-BB and VEGF were significantly higher than those of the control group after 14 days induction, suggesting they were abundantly secreted into the medium during the culturing period. In conclusion, HADSCs showed in vitro the upregulation of markers for differentiation towards urothelial cells by culturing in an urothelial-conditioned medium, which provides an alternative cell source for potential use in urinary tract tissue engineering.

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This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation (No. 81070555), Beijing Natural Foundation (No.2092029) and the Major Project of Clinical High and New Technology of Army hospital.

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Correspondence to Wei-Jun Fu.

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Jian-Guo Shi and Wei-Jun Fu contributed equally to the article.

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Shi, J., Fu, W., Wang, X. et al. Transdifferentiation of human adipose-derived stem cells into urothelial cells: potential for urinary tract tissue engineering. Cell Tissue Res 347, 737–746 (2012).

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  • Human adipose-derived stem cells
  • Transdifferentiation
  • Urothelial cells
  • Urinary tract
  • Tissue engineering