PhD student, Karolinska Institutet
Development of a cell therapy for Age-related Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in elder people in industrialized countries. It is known that a combination of genetic and environmental factors is the promoter of Retinal Pigment Epithelium (RPE) cells and photoreceptors degeneration, two cell types with a crucial role on the visual function. The fact that the causes are still unclear makes more difficult to find a cure but a lot of efforts are being made to develop a treatment for this expanding disease. The main interest of my PhD project is to derive native-like RPE and photoreceptor cells from human embryonic stem cells in a defined and xeno-free way, two key elements that will allow us to bring these cells into future clinical trials.
Abstract: 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.
Pub.: 12 Jan '17, Pinned: 15 Sep '17
Abstract: We assessed the feasibility of transplanting a sheet of retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells differentiated from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) in a patient with neovascular age-related macular degeneration. The iPSCs were generated from skin fibroblasts obtained from two patients with advanced neovascular age-related macular degeneration and were differentiated into RPE cells. The RPE cells and the iPSCs from which they were derived were subject to extensive testing. A surgery that included the removal of the neovascular membrane and transplantation of the autologous iPSC-derived RPE cell sheet under the retina was performed in one of the patients. At 1 year after surgery, the transplanted sheet remained intact, best corrected visual acuity had not improved or worsened, and cystoid macular edema was present. (Funded by Highway Program for Realization of Regenerative Medicine and others; University Hospital Medical Information Network Clinical Trials Registry [UMIN-CTR] number, UMIN000011929 .).
Pub.: 16 Mar '17, Pinned: 15 Sep '17
Abstract: Human embryonic stem cell (hESC)-derived retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells could replace lost tissue in geographic atrophy (GA) but efficacy has yet to be demonstrated in a large-eyed model. Also, production of hESC-RPE has not yet been achieved in a xeno-free and defined manner, which is critical for clinical compliance and reduced immunogenicity. Here we describe an effective differentiation methodology using human laminin-521 matrix with xeno-free and defined medium. Differentiated cells exhibited characteristics of native RPE including morphology, pigmentation, marker expression, monolayer integrity, and polarization together with phagocytic activity. Furthermore, we established a large-eyed GA model that allowed in vivo imaging of hESC-RPE and host retina. Cells transplanted in suspension showed long-term integration and formed polarized monolayers exhibiting phagocytic and photoreceptor rescue capacity. We have developed a xeno-free and defined hESC-RPE differentiation method and present evidence of functional integration of clinically compliant hESC-RPE in a large-eyed disease model.
Pub.: 05 Jan '16, Pinned: 15 Sep '17