Making Stem Cells Retinal and Vice Versa: Cellular Therapy for Eye Disease

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July 21, 2011

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  • Human embryonic stem cells (hESC) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) have the potential to differentiate into ocular cells, which may prove useful in the treatment of retinal diseases, particularly age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD and related diseases are a leading cause of blindness in elderly people of the western world and retinal pigmented epithelial (RPE) cell dysfunction and death are thought to be major causative events. We describe recent studies showing that human iPSC derived from embryonic lung cells using Oct4, Sox2, Lin28 and Nanog (Thomson et al.) can spontaneously give rise to RPE cells that are similar but not identical to native RPE with respect to structural, functional and molecular properties. iPS-RPE were shown to carry out phagocytosis of photoreceptor outer segments in vitro and rescue vision in the RCS rat model of retinal dysfunction. Furthermore, some but not all human iPS cells derived from embryonic RPE show a tendency to redifferentiate into RPE. RPE derived from iPSC or hESC have potential as cellular therapies for AMD.

    BioengineeringStem Cells

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