ABSTRACT: Retinal degenerations cause permanent visual loss and affect millions world-wide. Current treatment strategies, such as gene therapy and anti-angiogenic drugs, merely delay disease progression. Research is underway which aims to regenerate the diseased retina by transplanting a variety of cell types, including embryonic stem cells, fetal cells, progenitor cells and induced pluripotent stem cells. Initial retinal transplantation studies injected stem and progenitor cells into the vitreous or subretinal space with the hope that these donor cells would migrate to the site of retinal degeneration, integrate within the host retina and restore functional vision. Despite promising outcomes, these studies showed that the bolus injection technique gave rise to poorly localized tissue grafts. Subsequently, retinal tissue engineers have drawn upon the success of bone, cartilage and vasculature tissue engineering by employing a polymeric tissue engineering approach. This review will describe the evolution of retinal tissue engineering to date, with particular emphasis on the types of polymers that have routinely been used in recent investigations. Further, this review will show that the field of retinal tissue engineering will require new types of materials and fabrication techniques that optimize the survival, differentiation and delivery of retinal transplant cells.
Project description:Retinal degenerations cause permanent visual loss and affect millions world-wide. Presently, a novel treatment highlights the potential of using biodegradable polymer scaffolds to induce differentiation and deliver retinal progenitor cells for cell replacement therapy. In this study, we engineered and analyzed a micro-fabricated polymer, poly(glycerol sebacate) (PGS) scaffold, whose useful properties include biocompatibility, elasticity, porosity, and a microtopology conducive to mouse retinal progenitor cell (mRPC) differentiation. In vitro proliferation assays revealed that PGS held up to 86,610 (+/-9993) mRPCs per square millimeter, which were retained through simulated transplantations. mRPCs adherent to PGS differentiated toward mature phenotypes as evidenced by changes in mRNA, protein levels, and enhanced sensitivity to glutamate. Transplanted composites demonstrated long-term mRPC survival and migrated cells exhibited mature marker expression in host retina. These results suggest that combining mRPCs with PGS scaffolds for subretinal transplantation is a practical strategy for advancing retinal tissue engineering as a restorative therapy.
Project description:The retina is subject to degenerative conditions, leading to blindness. Although retinal regeneration is robust in lower vertebrates, regeneration does not occur in the adult mammalian retina. Thus, we have developed efficient methods for deriving retinal neurons from human embryonic stem (hES) cells. Under appropriate culture conditions, up to 80% of the H1 line can be directed to the retinal progenitor fate, and express a gene expression profile similar to progenitors derived from human fetal retina. The hES cell-derived progenitors differentiate primarily into inner retinal neurons (ganglion and amacrine cells), with functional glutamate receptors. Upon coculture with retinas derived from a mouse model of retinal degeneration, the hES cell derived retinal progenitors integrate with the degenerated mouse retina and increase in their expression of photoreceptor-specific markers. These results demonstrate that human ES cells can be selectively directed to a neural retinal cell fate and thus may be useful in the treatment of retinal degenerations.
Project description:To develop biological approaches to restore vision, we developed a method of transplanting stem cell-derived retinal tissue into the subretinal space of a large-eye animal model (cat). Human embryonic stem cells (hESC) were differentiated to retinal organoids in a dish. hESC-derived retinal tissue was introduced into the subretinal space of wild-type cats following a pars plana vitrectomy. The cats were systemically immunosuppressed with either prednisolone or prednisolone plus cyclosporine A. The eyes were examined by fundoscopy and spectral-domain optical coherence tomography imaging for adverse effects due to the presence of the subretinal grafts. Immunohistochemistry was done with antibodies to retinal and human markers to delineate graft survival, differentiation, and integration into cat retina. We successfully delivered hESC-derived retinal tissue into the subretinal space of the cat eye. We observed strong infiltration of immune cells in the graft and surrounding tissue in the cats treated with prednisolone. In contrast, we showed better survival and low immune response to the graft in cats treated with prednisolone plus cyclosporine A. Immunohistochemistry with antibodies (STEM121, CALB2, DCX, and SMI-312) revealed large number of graft-derived fibers connecting the graft and the host. We also show presence of human-specific synaptophysin puncta in the cat retina. This work demonstrates feasibility of engrafting hESC-derived retinal tissue into the subretinal space of large-eye animal models. Transplanting retinal tissue in degenerating cat retina will enable rapid development of preclinical in vivo work focused on vision restoration.
Project description:Recent success in functional recovery by photoreceptor precursor transplantation in dysfunctional retina has led to an increased interest in using embryonic stem cell (ESC) or induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived retinal progenitors to treat retinal degeneration. However, cell-based therapies for end-stage degenerative retinas that have lost the outer nuclear layer (ONL) are still a big challenge. In the present study, by transplanting mouse iPSC-derived retinal tissue (miPSC retina) in the end-stage retinal-degeneration model (rd1), we visualized the direct contact between host bipolar cell terminals and the presynaptic terminal of graft photoreceptors by gene labeling, showed light-responsive behaviors in transplanted rd1 mice, and recorded responses from the host retina with transplants by ex vivo micro-electroretinography and ganglion cell recordings using a multiple-electrode array system. Our data provides a proof of concept for transplanting ESC/iPSC retinas to restore vision in end-stage retinal degeneration.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Transplantation as a therapeutic strategy for inherited retinal degeneration has been historically viewed to restore vision as a method by replacing the lost retinal cells and attempting to reconstruct the neural circuitry with stem cells, progenitor cells and mature neural retinal cells. METHODS AND FINDINGS: We present evidence for an alternative strategy aimed at preventing the secondary loss of cones, the most crucial photoreceptors for vision, by transplanting normal photoreceptors cells into the eye of the P23H rat, a model of dominant retinitis pigmentosa. We carried out transplantation of photoreceptors or total neural retina in 3-month-old P23H rats and evaluated the function and cell counts 6 months after surgery. In both groups, cone loss was significantly reduced (10%) in the transplanted eyes where the cone outer segments were found to be considerably longer. This morphological effect correlated with maintenance of the visual function of cones as scored by photopic ERG recording, but more precisely with an increase in the photopic b-wave amplitudes by 100% and 78% for photoreceptor transplantation and whole retinal transplantation respectively. CONCLUSIONS: We demonstrate here that the transplanted tissue prevents the loss of cone function, which is further translated into cone survival.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Inherited and acquired retinal degenerations are frequent causes of visual impairment and photoreceptor cell replacement therapy may restore visual function to these individuals. To provide a source of new retinal neurons for cell based therapies, we developed methods to derive retinal progenitors from human ES cells. METHODOLOGY/PHYSICAL FINDINGS:In this report we have used a similar method to direct induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) from human fibroblasts to a retinal progenitor fate, competent to generate photoreceptors. We also found we could purify the photoreceptors derived from the iPS cells using fluorescence activated cell sorting (FACS) after labeling photoreceptors with a lentivirus driving GFP from the IRBP cis-regulatory sequences. Moreover, we found that when we transplanted the FACS purified iPSC derived photoreceptors, they were able to integrate into a normal mouse retina and express photoreceptor markers. CONCLUSIONS:This report provides evidence that enriched populations of human photoreceptors can be derived from iPS cells.
Project description:Rod and cone photoreceptors are light-sensing cells in the human retina. Rods are dominant in the peripheral retina, whereas cones are enriched in the macula, which is responsible for central vision and visual acuity. Macular degenerations affect vision the most and are currently incurable. Here we report the generation, transcriptome profiling, and functional validation of cone-rich human retinal organoids differentiated from hESCs using an improved retinal differentiation system. Induced by extracellular matrix, aggregates of hESCs formed single-lumen cysts composed of epithelial cells with anterior neuroectodermal/ectodermal fates, including retinal cell fate. Then, the cysts were en bloc-passaged, attached to culture surface, and grew, forming colonies in which retinal progenitor cell patches were found. Following gentle cell detachment, retinal progenitor cells self-assembled into retinal epithelium-retinal organoid-that differentiated into stratified cone-rich retinal tissue in agitated cultures. Electron microscopy revealed differentiating outer segments of photoreceptor cells. Bulk RNA-sequencing profiling of time-course retinal organoids demonstrated that retinal differentiation in vitro recapitulated in vivo retinogenesis in temporal expression of cell differentiation markers and retinal disease genes, as well as in mRNA alternative splicing. Single-cell RNA-sequencing profiling of 8-mo retinal organoids identified cone and rod cell clusters and confirmed the cone enrichment initially revealed by quantitative microscopy. Notably, cones from retinal organoids and human macula had similar single-cell transcriptomes, and so did rods. Cones in retinal organoids exhibited electrophysiological functions. Collectively, we have established cone-rich retinal organoids and a reference of transcriptomes that are valuable resources for retinal studies.
Project description:Pluripotent cells such as embryonic stem (ES) and induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells are the starting point from which to generate organ specific cell types. For example, converting pluripotent cells to retinal cells could provide an opportunity to treat retinal injuries and degenerations. In this study, we used an in vivo strategy to determine if functional retinas could be generated from a defined population of pluripotent Xenopus laevis cells. Animal pole cells isolated from blastula stage embryos are pluripotent. Untreated, these cells formed only epidermis, when transplanted to either the flank or eye field. In contrast, misexpression of seven transcription factors induced the formation of retinal cell types. Induced retinal cells were committed to a retinal lineage as they formed eyes when transplanted to the flanks of developing embryos. When the endogenous eye field was replaced with induced retinal cells, they formed eyes that were molecularly, anatomically, and electrophysiologically similar to normal eyes. Importantly, induced eyes could guide a vision-based behavior. These results suggest the fate of pluripotent cells may be purposely altered to generate multipotent retinal progenitor cells, which differentiate into functional retinal cell classes and form a neural circuitry sufficient for vision.
Project description:Retinal degenerations are a major cause of impaired vision in the elderly. Degenerations originate in either photoreceptors or the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). RPE forms the outer blood-retinal barrier and functions intimately with photoreceptors. Animal models and cultures of RPE are commonly used to screen potential pharmaceuticals or explore RPE replacement therapy, but human RPE differs from that of other species. Human RPE forms a barrier using tight junctions composed of a unique set of claudins, proteins that determine the permeability and selectivity of tight junctions. Human adult RPE fails to replicate these properties in vitro. To develop a culture model for drug development and tissue-engineering human retina, RPE were derived from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). Barrier properties of RPE derived from the H1 and H9 hESC lines were compared with a well-regarded model of RPE function, human fetal RPE isolated from 16-week-gestation fetuses (hfRPE). A serum-free medium (SFM-1) that enhanced the redifferentiation of hfRPE in culture also furthered the maturation of hESC-derived RPE. In SFM-1, the composition, selectivity, and permeability of tight junctions were similar to those of hfRPE. Comparison of the transcriptomes by RNA sequencing and quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction revealed a high correlation between the hESCs and hfRPE, but there were notable differences in the expression of adhesion junction and membrane transport genes. These data indicated that hESC-derived RPE is highly differentiated but may be less mature than RPE isolated from 16-week fetuses. The study identified a panel of genes to monitor the maturation of RPE.
Project description:The retina is a light sensitive tissue that contains specialized photoreceptor cells called rods and cones which process visual signals. These signals are relayed to the brain through interneurons and the fibers of the optic nerve. The retina is susceptible to a variety of degenerative diseases, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic retinopathy (DR), retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and other inherited retinal degenerations. In order to reveal the mechanism underlying these diseases and to find methods for the prevention/treatment of retinal degeneration, animal models have been generated to mimic human eye diseases. In this paper, several well-characterized and commonly used animal models are reviewed. Of particular interest are the contributions of these models to our understanding of the mechanisms of retinal degeneration and thereby providing novel treatment options including gene therapy, stem cell therapy, nanomedicine, and CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing. Role of newly-identified adaptor protein epsins from our laboratory is discussed in retinal angiogenesis and VEGFR2 signaling.