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Retinal Ganglion Cells Derived From Pluripotent Stem Cells

Increase in apoptosis in patient-derived RGCs, which was rescued with candidate neuroprotective factors

microscopic slide

FRIDAY, March 25, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Stepwise differentiation through an enriched retinal progenitor intermediary facilitates the accomplishment of deriving retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs), according to research published online March 21 in STEM CELLS.

Sarah K. Ohlemacher, from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and colleagues examined the process of differentiating hPSCs to a retinal lineage and attempted to derive RGCs from hPSCs.

The researchers were able to definitively identify hPSC-derived RGCs by their directed, stepwise differentiation through an enriched retinal progenitor intermediary. The resultant RGCs expressed a full complement of associated features and functional characteristics. Based on these results, induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) were established from a patient with a genetically inherited form of glaucoma, resulting in RGC damage and loss. There was a dramatic increase in apoptosis in patient-derived RGCs, similar to the targeted loss seen in glaucoma; addition of candidate neuroprotective factors significantly rescued this phenotype.

"Thus, the current study serves to establish a method by which to definitively acquire and identify RGCs from hPSCs and demonstrates the ability of hPSCs to serve as an effective in vitro model of disease progression," the authors write. "Moreover, iPSC-derived RGCs can be utilized for future drug screening approaches to identify targets for the treatment of glaucoma and other optic neuropathies."

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