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Pluripotent Stem Cells Aid in Exploring Retinal Development

Last Updated: August 31, 2009.

Human induced pluripotent stem cells may generate retina-specific cell types along a similar time schedule as human embryonic stem cells, which may point to therapies for retinal degenerative diseases, according to research published Aug. 25 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

MONDAY, Aug. 31 (HealthDay News) -- Human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) may generate retina-specific cell types along a similar time schedule as human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), which may point to therapies for retinal degenerative diseases, according to research published Aug. 25 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Jason S. Meyer, of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, and colleagues describe the different eye-related transcription factors expressed by hESCs during differentiation. They then discuss their application of a hESC differentiation protocol to human iPS cell lines.

Using the IMR90-4 cell line -- which highly expresses Pax6, a requirement of early retinal progenitor cells -- the researchers found that upon differentiation, the cell colonies, embryoid bodies, neural rosettes, and neurospheres appeared identical to those from hESCs. Differentiating iPS cell populations showed features or markers of retinal pigment epithelium, neural retinal progenitors, photoreceptors, and other structures along a schedule predicted by hESCs.

"In summary, we have shown that hESCs meet the criteria to serve as a comprehensive in vitro model system for human retinogenesis. Using an identical culture method, human iPS cells show a similar potential, although variation can occur between lines. On a broader level, this study supports a role for pluripotent stem cells to test concepts in human developmental biology that were previously extrapolated from animal models," the authors conclude.

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