"A Simple and Scalable Process for the Differentiation of Retinal Pigment Epithelium From Human Pluripotent Stem Cells" and "Rapid and Efficient Directed Differentiation of Human Pluripotent Stem Cells Into Retinal Pigmented Epithelium"
The high prevalence of blindness caused by age-related macular degeneration (AMD) (Gehrs et al), due to damaged or dysfunctional retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells (Khandhadia et al) has led to the use of pluripotent stem cells to derive RPE for transplantation. Various studies have shown that RPE can be derived from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) (Klimanskaya et al) and human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) (Buchholz et al, Hirami et al, Meyer et al and Osakada et al) and a human clinical trial of hESC-RPE cell transplantation is currently under way (Schwartz et al). However, techniques used so far are problematic for large scale production of consistent high quality cells. Now in two studies published in Stem Cells Translational Medicine, advancements in differentiation protocols are presented. In the first study, researchers from the group of Donald J. Zack at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Baltimore, Maryland, USA have described a less labour-intensive myosin inhibitor-mediated differentiation protocol which, after enrichment, leads to a highly pure population of cells which display many characteristics of native RPE cells (Maruotti et al). In the latter study researchers from the laboratories of Peter J. Coffey and Dennis O. Clegg at the Neuroscience Research Institute and the Center for the Study of Macular Degeneration at the University of California, Santa Barbara, USA describe their work into the modification of current protocols by the addition of retinal induction factors and other factors at specific times giving an increased efficiency of RPE derivation at earlier time points (Buchholz et al).