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Stem Cells International
Volume 2015, Article ID 959807, 16 pages
Review Article

Organ In Vitro Culture: What Have We Learned about Early Kidney Development?

1Faculty of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, Biocenter Oulu, Oulu University, 90220 Oulu, Finland
2Renal Regeneration Laboratory, VAGLAHS at Sepulveda, North Hills, CA 91343, USA
3David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA

Received 7 November 2014; Revised 7 January 2015; Accepted 8 January 2015

Academic Editor: Laura Lasagni

Copyright © 2015 Aleksandra Rak-Raszewska et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


When Clifford Grobstein set out to study the inductive interaction between tissues in the developing embryo, he developed a method that remained important for the study of renal development until now. From the late 1950s on, in vitro cultivation of the metanephric kidney became a standard method. It provided an artificial environment that served as an open platform to study organogenesis. This review provides an introduction to the technique of organ culture, describes how the Grobstein assay and its variants have been used to study aspects of mesenchymal induction, and describes the search for natural and chemical inducers of the metanephric mesenchyme. The review also focuses on renal development, starting with ectopic budding of the ureteric bud, ureteric bud branching, and the generation of the nephron and presents the search for stem cells and renal progenitor cells that contribute to specific structures and tissues during renal development. It also presents the current use of Grobstein assay and its modifications in regenerative medicine and tissue engineering today. Together, this review highlights the importance of ex vivo kidney studies as a way to acquire new knowledge, which in the future can and will be implemented for developmental biology and regenerative medicine applications.