Current studies suggest that mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) improve acute kidney injury (AKI) via paracrine/ endocrine effects. We established human adipose tissue-derived stromal cells (hASCs) cultured in low (2%) serum (hLASCs), which have great potential of tissue regeneration. The present study was performed to investigate the therapeutic effects of hLASCs on AKI and to clarify the mechanisms involved. In low serum, hASCs proliferated well, while human bone marrow-derived stromal cells (hBMSCs) did not. hLASCs secreted higher levels of hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) than did hASCs cultured in high (20%) serum (hHASCs) or hBMSCs cultured in high serum (hHBMSCs). AKI was induced in nude rats by folic acid, and hLASCs, hHASCs or control medium were administered into the renal subcapsules. hLASCs significantly attenuated acute renal damage, while hHASCs showed far less effect. Furthermore, interstitial fibrosis observed on day 14 was less pronounced in the hLASCs group. Cell tracking experiment showed no evidence of transdifferentiation. Intravenous injection of hLASCs or hHBMSCs or subcapsular injection of hHBMSCs did not ameliorate AKI. Concerning the mechanisms, our in vivo experiments showed that HGF knockdown by siRNA impaired the ability of hLASCs to protect the kidney from acute injury whereas VEGF knockdown did not. In conclusion, hLASCs, but not hHASCs or hHBMSCs, ameliorated AKI via paracrine effects, and HGF is one of the key mediators.
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