Characterization of Three-Dimensional Retinal Tissue Derived from Human Embryonic Stem Cells in Adherent Monolayer Cultures

Ratnesh K. Singh,1,* Ramya K. Mallela,1,* Pamela K. Cornuet,1 Aaron N. Reifler,2 Andrew P. Chervenak,2Michael D. West,3 Kwoon Y. Wong,2 and Igor O. Nasonkin1
1Department of Ophthalmology, Louis J. Fox Center for Vision Restoration, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
2Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
3BioTime, Inc., Alameda, California.


Stem cell-based therapy of retinal degenerative conditions is a promising modality to treat blindness, but requires new strategies to improve the number of functionally integrating cells. Grafting semidifferentiated retinal tissue rather than progenitors allows preservation of tissue structure and connectivity in retinal grafts, mandatory for vision restoration. Using human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), we derived retinal tissue growing in adherent conditions consisting of conjoined neural retina and retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells and evaluated cell fate determination and maturation in this tissue. We found that deriving such tissue in adherent conditions robustly induces all eye field genes (RXPAX6LHX2SIX3SIX6) and produces four layers of pure populations of retinal cells: RPE (expressing NHERF1EZRINRPE65DCTTYRTYRPMITFPMEL), early photoreceptors (PRs) (coexpressing CRX and RCVRN), inner nuclear layer neurons (expressing CALB2), and retinal ganglion cells [RGCs, expressing BRN3B and Neurofilament (NF200]. Furthermore, we found that retinal progenitors divide at the apical side of the hESC-derived retinal tissue (next to the RPE layer) and then migrate toward the basal side, similar to that found during embryonic retinogenesis. We detected synaptogenesis in hESC-derived retinal tissue, and found neurons containing many synaptophysin-positive boutons within the RGC and PR layers. We also observed long NF200-positive axons projected by RGCs toward the apical side. Whole-cell recordings demonstrated that putative amacrine and/or ganglion cells exhibited electrophysiological responses reminiscent of those in normal retinal neurons. These responses included voltage-gated Na+ and K+currents, depolarization-induced spiking, and responses to neurotransmitter receptor agonists. Differentiation in adherent conditions allows generation of long and flexible pieces of 3D retinal tissue suitable for isolating transplantable slices of tissue for retinal replacement therapies.

“…. Glass coverslips were purchased from Brain Research Laboratories. (NewtonMA).”

Copyright © 2015 Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. publishers. Original Article