Kidney-based in vitro models for drug-induced toxicity testing

João Faria, Sabbir Ahmed, Karin G. F. Gerritsen, Silvia M. Mihaila & Rosalinde Masereeuw

Published: 01/12/2019


The kidney is frequently involved in adverse effects caused by exposure to foreign compounds, including drugs. An early prediction of those effects is crucial for allowing novel, safe drugs entering the market. Yet, in current pharmacotherapy, drug-induced nephrotoxicity accounts for up to 25% of the reported serious adverse effects, of which one-third is attributed to antimicrobials use. Adverse drug effects can be due to direct toxicity, for instance as a result of kidney-specific determinants, or indirectly by, e.g., vascular effects or crystals deposition. Currently used in vitro assays do not adequately predict in vivo observed effects, predominantly due to an inadequate preservation of the organs’ microenvironment in the models applied. The kidney is highly complex, composed of a filter unit and a tubular segment, together containing over 20 different cell types. The tubular epithelium is highly polarized, and the maintenance of this polarity is critical for optimal functioning and response to environmental signals. Cell polarity is dependent on communication between cells, which includes paracrine and autocrine signals, as well as biomechanic and chemotactic processes. These processes all influence kidney cell proliferation, migration, and differentiation. For drug disposition studies, this microenvironment is essential for prediction of toxic responses. This review provides an overview of drug-induced injuries to the kidney, details on relevant and translational biomarkers, and advances in 3D cultures of human renal cells, including organoids and kidney-on-a-chip platforms.

Full Access Link: Archives of Toxicology