Lack of smooth muscle development to support artery growth currently limits kidney explants as organ models
Explants, tissues taken from organisms and grown in the laboratory, are useful research tools, but isolating them from a real circulatory system affects their behaviour. This is especially problematic for kidney explants, as circulation is critical for kidney function, filtering waste from blood. An ingenious solution involves using the chorioallantoic membrane (CAM) of a bird’s egg, responsible for gas exchange for the embryo inside: after cutting a small window into a chicken egg, explants are grafted onto the CAM, where they connect to its network of blood vessels. Yet examining the vascular system that develops in explants cultured this way (pictured, with kidney-specific structures in yellow and blue, and blood vessels in red) suggests this technique has limitations. Compared to natural kidneys, explants feature too many capillaries, the smallest vessels, and lack smooth muscle cells, which normally line and support arteries, differences that could have implications for researchers using explants.
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