Felix Grases, Rafael M. Prieto and Antonia Costa-Bauzá
This paper discusses the limitations of using laboratory animals for direct in vivo observation of the development of renal stones. In fact, the majority of hypotheses related to mechanisms of stone formation have been based on the results of in vitro experiments. The relevance of in vitro experiments that allow the study of urolithiasis depends upon the degree of correspondence between the experimental conditions and those prevailing in the stone-forming kidney in vivo. For this reason, several in vitro experimental systems that attempt to reproduce the conditions found in vivo have been developed in order to study renal stone formation, which have been classified into two main groups: a) models to study papillary stone formation; and b) models to study “sedimentary” stone formation. These models are briefly described in this paper, and the information obtained was compared with that resulting from a study of the fine structure of real human renal calculi, in order to prove the validity of the models. It was concluded that the experimental in vitro models can closely reproduce the renal conditions under which human calculi are developed. This allows important data to be obtained about the aetiology of renal lithiasis, which is of great relevance to the development of effective treatments for this disease. Therefore, experimental in vitro models constitute a clear alternative to the use of laboratory animals.
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