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Open Access Immortalized Human Fetal Retinal Cells Retain Progenitor Characteristics and Represent a Potential Source for the Treatment of Retinal Degenerative Disease

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Human fetal retinal cells have been widely advocated for the development of cellular replacement therapies in patients with retinal dystrophies and age-related macular degeneration. A major limitation, however, is the lack of an abundant and renewable source of cells to meet therapeutic demand, although theoretically this may be addressed through the use of immortalized retinal progenitor cell lines. Here, we have used the temperature-sensitive tsA58 simian virus SV40 T antigen to conditionally immortalize human retinal progenitor cells isolated from retinal tissue at 10‐12 weeks of gestation. We show that immortalized human fetal retinal cells retain their progenitor cell properties over many passages, and are comparable with nonimmortalized human fetal retinal cultures from the same gestational period with regard to expression of certain retinal genes. To evaluate the capacity of these cells to integrate into the diseased retina and to screen for potential tumorigenicity, cells were grafted into neonatal hooded Lister rats and RCS dystrophic rats. Both cell lines exhibited scarce integration into the host retina and failed to express markers of mature differentiated retinal cells. Moreover, although immortalized cells showed a greater propensity to survive, the cell lines demonstrated poor long-term survival. All grafts were infiltrated with host macrophage/microglial cells throughout their duration of survival. This study demonstrates that immortalized human fetal retinal progenitor cells retain their progenitor characteristics and may therefore have therapeutic potential in strategies that demand a renewable and consistent supply of donor cells for the treatment of degenerative retinal diseases.

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Keywords: Cellular therapy; Conditional immortalization; Progenitor cells; Retina

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Cell Biology, UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, London, UK

Publication date: 01 October 2010

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  • Cell Transplantation publishes original, peer-reviewed research and review articles on the subject of cell transplantation and its application to human diseases. To ensure high-quality contributions from all areas of transplantation, separate section editors and editorial boards have been established. Articles deal with a wide range of topics including physiological, medical, preclinical, tissue engineering, and device-oriented aspects of transplantation of nervous system, endocrine, growth factor-secreting, bone marrow, epithelial, endothelial, and genetically engineered cells, among others. Basic clinical studies and immunological research papers are also featured. To provide complete coverage of this revolutionary field, Cell Transplantation will report on relevant technological advances, and ethical and regulatory considerations of cell transplants. Cell Transplantation is now an Open Access journal starting with volume 18 in 2009, and therefore there will be an inexpensive publication charge, which is dependent on the number of pages, in addition to the charge for color figures. This will allow work to be disseminated to a wider audience and also entitle the corresponding author to a free PDF, as well as prepublication of an unedited version of the manuscript.

    Cell Transplantation is now being published by SAGE. Please visit their website for the most recent issues.

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