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All Publications

  • Xeno-free cryopreservation of adherent retinal pigmented epithelium yields viable and functional cells in vitro and in vivo. Scientific reports Pennington, B. O., Bailey, J. K., Faynus, M. A., Hinman, C. n., Hee, M. N., Ritts, R. n., Nadar, V. n., Zhu, D. n., Mitra, D. n., Martinez-Camarillo, J. C., Lin, T. C., Thomas, B. B., Hinton, D. R., Humayun, M. S., Lebkowski, J. n., Johnson, L. V., Clegg, D. O. 2021; 11 (1): 6286


    Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the primary cause of blindness in adults over 60 years of age, and clinical trials are currently assessing the therapeutic potential of retinal pigmented epithelial (RPE) cell monolayers on implantable scaffolds to treat this disease. However, challenges related to the culture, long-term storage, and long-distance transport of such implants currently limit the widespread use of adherent RPE cells as therapeutics. Here we report a xeno-free protocol to cryopreserve a confluent monolayer of clinical-grade, human embryonic stem cell-derived RPE cells on a parylene scaffold (REPS) that yields viable, polarized, and functional RPE cells post-thaw. Thawed cells exhibit???95% viability, have morphology, pigmentation, and gene expression characteristic of mature RPE cells, and secrete the neuroprotective protein, pigment epithelium-derived factor (PEDF). Stability under liquid nitrogen (LN2) storage has been confirmed through one year. REPS were administered immediately post-thaw into the subretinal space of a mammalian model, the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS)/nude rat. Implanted REPS were assessed at 30, 60, and 90 days post-implantation, and thawed cells demonstrate survival as an intact monolayer on the parylene scaffold. Furthermore, immunoreactivity for the maturation marker, RPE65, significantly increased over the post-implantation period in vivo, and cells demonstrated functional attributes similar to non-cryopreserved controls. The capacity to cryopreserve adherent cellular therapeutics permits extended storage and stable transport to surgical sites, enabling broad distribution for the treatment of prevalent diseases such as AMD.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41598-021-85631-6

    View details for PubMedID 33737600

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC7973769

  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell-Derived Retinal Pigmented Epithelium: A Comparative Study Between Cell Lines and Differentiation Methods. Journal of ocular pharmacology and therapeutics : the official journal of the Association for Ocular Pharmacology and Therapeutics Leach, L. L., Croze, R. H., Hu, Q. n., Nadar, V. P., Clevenger, T. N., Pennington, B. O., Gamm, D. M., Clegg, D. O. 2016; 32 (5): 317?30


    The application of induced pluripotent stem cell-derived retinal pigmented epithelium (iPSC-RPE) in patients with retinal degenerative disease is making headway toward the clinic, with clinical trials already underway. Multiple groups have developed methods for RPE differentiation from pluripotent cells, but previous studies have shown variability in iPSC propensity to differentiate into RPE.This study provides a comparison between 2 different methods for RPE differentiation: (1) a commonly used spontaneous continuously adherent culture (SCAC) protocol and (2) a more rapid, directed differentiation using growth factors. Integration-free iPSC lines were differentiated to RPE, which were characterized with respect to global gene expression, expression of RPE markers, and cellular function.We found that all 5 iPSC lines (iPSC-1, iPSC-2, iPSC-3, iPSC-4, and iPSC-12) generated RPE using the directed differentiation protocol; however, 2 of the 5 iPSC lines (iPSC-4 and iPSC-12) did not yield RPE using the SCAC method. Both methods can yield bona fide RPE that expresses signature RPE genes and carry out RPE functions, and are similar, but not identical to fetal RPE. No differences between methods were detected in transcript levels, protein localization, or functional analyses between iPSC-1-RPE, iPSC-2-RPE, and iPSC-3-RPE. Directed iPSC-3-RPE showed enhanced transcript levels of RPE65 compared to directed iPSC-2-RPE and increased BEST1 expression and pigment epithelium-derived factor (PEDF) secretion compared to directed iPSC-1-RPE. In addition, SCAC iPSC-3-RPE secreted more PEDF than SCAC iPSC-1-RPE.The directed protocol is a more reliable method for differentiating RPE from various pluripotent sources and some iPSC lines are more amenable to RPE differentiation.

    View details for DOI 10.1089/jop.2016.0022

    View details for PubMedID 27182743

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5911695

  • Canonical/?-catenin Wnt pathway activation improves retinal pigmented epithelium derivation from human embryonic stem cells. Investigative ophthalmology & visual science Leach, L. L., Buchholz, D. E., Nadar, V. P., Lowenstein, S. E., Clegg, D. O. 2015; 56 (2): 1002?13


    The purpose of this study was to better understand the role canonical/?-catenin Wnt signaling plays in the differentiation of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) into retinal pigmented epithelium (RPE), with the goal of improving methods for derivation.Fluorescent reporters were generated to monitor RPE differentiating from hESCs by using a previously described 14-day derivation protocol. Reporters were used to test the effects of the canonical/?-catenin Wnt pathway agonist CHIR99021 on differentiating RPE. Cells derived from differentiation studies were characterized by lineage-specific transcription factor expression, morphology, pigmentation, and function. The RPE derivation efficiency was determined from percentage positive PMEL17 expression.Fluorescent reporters mimicked expression of endogenous genes during 14-day differentiation to RPE. Analysis of Wnt pathway gene expression showed that the pathway components are expressed in differentiating RPE cells. Addition of CHIR99021 improved RPE derivation based on morphology, expression of RPE-specific lineage markers, and genes involved in melanogenesis. Additionally, expression of the neural retina marker CHX10 was suppressed during differentiation with CHIR99021. Addition of soluble WNT3A, but not WNT5A, had the same result. The CHIR99021-modified protocol yielded cell populations that were 97.77% ± 0.1% positive for the RPE marker PMEL17 at day 14. After cells were expanded to passage 3, they were shown to express RPE markers, carry out phagocytosis of rod outer segments, and secrete pigment epithelium-derived factor apically and vascular endothelial growth factor basally.Our findings demonstrated the importance of canonical/?-catenin Wnt signaling in RPE differentiation and showed that manipulating the pathway significantly improves RPE derivation from hESC.

    View details for DOI 10.1167/iovs.14-15835

    View details for PubMedID 25604686

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