In a rat-model system, tubular crystal retention as a possible mechanism for the etiology of nephrolithiasis in man, was studied by conventional transmission electron microscopy. The animals were supplied for nine days with a crystal-inducing diet, with ethylene glycol plus NH4Cl in their drinking-water. After this induction period, a two day regime with fresh drinking-water was included, to allow crystals to be removed by spontaneous crystalluria. After aldehyde fixation of the rat kidneys, large crystals were seen inside the tubular lumen. The crystals were attached to cell surfaces and covered by neighboring epithelial cells. Some crystals were overgrown by several epithelial cells and underwent a process of so-called exotubulosis, resulting in free or cell-surrounded crystals in the interstitium, and possibly in crystals in Giant cells. To investigate the fate of the retained crystals, some animals were additionally exposed to a low-oxalate challenge from drinking water containing 0.1 volume per cent of ethylene glycol for 12 or 30 days, respectively. It was assumed that this would interfere with the retained intratubular or interstitial crystals, and allow the crystals to grow into mini-stones. This was not observed. After the oxalate challenge, no crystals were found to be retained in the tubules (free or covered by cells). Interstitial crystals were observed, but it remains to be demonstrated whether such crystals actually grow into mini-stones or that they are removed by the sterile inflammation process observed.
de Bruijn, W. C.; Boevé, E. R.; van Run, P. R. W. A.; van Miert, P. P. M. C.; Romijn, J. C.; Verkoelen, C. F.; Cao, L. C.; and Schröder, F. H.
"Etiology of Experimental Calcium Oxalate Monohydrate Nephrolithiasis in Rats,"
Scanning Microscopy: Vol. 8
, Article 13.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/microscopy/vol8/iss3/13