Recent findings have demonstrated that stem cells can differentiate into mature tissue when supplied with a niche containing factors identical to those in the normal developmental program. A niche for the development of an organ can be provided by xenotransplantation of a similar developing organ. However, this process has many technical, safety, and ethical concerns. Here, we established xenotransplantation models that control endogenous mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) differentiation into mature erythropoietin (EPO)-producing tissue in a niche provided by a developing xenometanephros. Transplantation of rat metanephroi into mouse omentum, and similarly pig metanephroi into cat omentum, led to the recruitment of host cells and EPO production. EPO-expressing cells were not differentiated from integrating vessels because they did not coexpress endothelial markers (Tie-2 and VE-cadherin). Instead, EPO-expressing cells were shown to be derived from circulating host cells, as shown by enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) expression in the grown transplants of chimeric mice bearing bone marrow from a transgenic mouse expressing EGFP under the control of the EPO promoter. These results suggest that donor cell recruitment and differentiation in a xenotransplanted developing organ may be consistent between species. The cells responsible for EPO expression were identified as MSCs by injecting human bone marrow-derived MSCs and endothelial progenitor cells into NOD/SCID mice. Furthermore, using metanephroi from transgenic ER-E2F1 suicide-inducible mice, the xeno-tissue component could be eliminated, leaving autologous EPO-producing tissue. Our findings may alleviate adverse effects due to long-lasting immunosuppression and help mitigate ethical concerns.
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