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Westenskow P.,Scripps Research Institute | Westenskow P.,Lowy Medical Research Institute | Sedillo Z.,Scripps Research Institute | Sedillo Z.,Lowy Medical Research Institute | And 3 more authors.
Journal of Visualized Experiments | Year: 2015

No cure has been discovered for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of vision loss in people over the age of 55. AMD is complex multifactorial disease with an unknown etiology, although it is largely thought to occur due to death or dysfunction of the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), a monolayer of cells that underlies the retina and provides critical support for photoreceptors. RPE cell replacement strategies may hold great promise for providing therapeutic relief for a large subset of AMD patients, and RPE cells that strongly resemble primary human cells (hRPE) have been generated in multiple independent labs, including our own. In addition, the uses for iPS-RPE are not limited to cell-based therapies, but also have been used to model RPE diseases. These types of studies may not only elucidate the molecular bases of the diseases, but also serve as invaluable tools for developing and testing novel drugs. We present here an optimized protocol for directed differentiation of RPE from stem cells. Adding nicotinamide and either Activin A or IDE-1, a small molecule that mimics its effects, at specific time points, greatly enhances the yield of RPE cells. Using this technique we can derive large numbers of low passage RPE in as early as three months. © 2015 Journal of Visualized Experiments. Source


Usui Y.,Scripps Research Institute | Westenskow P.D.,Scripps Research Institute | Westenskow P.D.,Lowy Medical Research Institute | Kurihara T.,Scripps Research Institute | And 9 more authors.
Journal of Clinical Investigation | Year: 2015

Functional interactions between neurons, vasculature, and glia within neurovascular units are critical for maintenance of the retina and other CNS tissues. For example, the architecture of the neurosensory retina is a highly organized structure with alternating layers of neurons and blood vessels that match the metabolic demand of neuronal activity with an appropriate supply of oxygen within perfused blood. Here, using murine genetic models and cell ablation strategies, we have demonstrated that a subset of retinal interneurons, the amacrine and horizontal cells, form neurovascular units with capillaries in 2 of the 3 retinal vascular plexuses. Moreover, we determined that these cells are required for generating and maintaining the intraretinal vasculature through precise regulation of hypoxia-inducible and proangiogenic factors, and that amacrine and horizontal cell dysfunction induces alterations to the intraretinal vasculature and substantial visual deficits. These findings demonstrate that specific retinal interneurons and the intraretinal vasculature are highly interdependent, and loss of either or both elicits profound effects on photoreceptor survival and function. Source


Westenskow P.D.,Scripps Research Institute | Westenskow P.D.,Lowy Medical Research Institute | Bucher F.,Scripps Research Institute | Bravo S.,Scripps Research Institute | And 6 more authors.
Stem Cells International | Year: 2016

Phototransduction is accomplished in the retina by photoreceptor neurons and retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells. Photoreceptors rely heavily on the RPE, and death or dysfunction of RPE is characteristic of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a very common neurodegenerative disease for which no cure exists. RPE replacement is a promising therapeutic intervention for AMD, and large numbers of RPE cells can be generated from pluripotent stem cells. However, questions persist regarding iPSC-derived RPE (iPS-RPE) viability, immunogenicity, and tumorigenesis potential. We showed previously that iPS-RPE prevent photoreceptor atrophy in dystrophic rats up until 24 weeks after implantation. In this follow-up study, we longitudinally monitored the same implanted iPS-RPE, in the same animals. We observed no gross abnormalities in the eyes, livers, spleens, brains, and blood in aging rats with iPSC-RPE grafts. iPS-RPE cells that integrated into the subretinal space outlived the photoreceptors and survived for as long as 2 1/2 years while nonintegrating RPE cells were ingested by host macrophages. Both populations could be distinguished using immunohistochemistry and electron microscopy. iPSC-RPE could be isolated from the grafts and maintained in culture; these cells also phagocytosed isolated photoreceptor outer segments. We conclude that iPS-RPE grafts remain viable and do not induce any obvious associated pathological changes. © 2016 Peter D. Westenskow et al. Source


Westenskow P.D.,Scripps Research Institute | Westenskow P.D.,Lowy Medical Research Institute | Kurihara T.,Scripps Research Institute | Bravo S.,Scripps Research Institute | And 5 more authors.
Journal of Visualized Experiments | Year: 2015

The conversion of light into electrical impulses occurs in the outer retina and is accomplished largely by rod and cone photoreceptors and retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells. RPE provide critical support for photoreceptors and death or dysfunction of RPE cells is characteristic of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of permanent vision loss in people age 55 and older. While no cure for AMD has been identified, implantation of healthy RPE in diseased eyes may prove to be an effective treatment, and large numbers of RPE cells can be readily generated from pluripotent stem cells. Several interesting questions regarding the safety and efficacy of RPE cell delivery can still be examined in animal models, and well-accepted protocols used to inject RPE have been developed. The technique described here has been used by multiple groups in various studies and involves first creating a hole in the eye with a sharp needle. Then a syringe with a blunt needle loaded with cells is inserted through the hole and passed through the vitreous until it gently touches the RPE. Using this injection method, which is relatively simple and requires minimal equipment, we achieve consistent and efficient integration of stem cell-derived RPE cells in between the host RPE that prevents significant amount of photoreceptor degeneration in animal models. While not part of the actual protocol, we also describe how to determine the extent of the trauma induced by the injection, and how to verify that the cells were injected into the subretinal space using in vivo imaging modalities. Finally, the use of this protocol is not limited to RPE cells; it may be used to inject any compound or cell into the subretinal space. © JoVE 2006-2015. All Rights Reserved. Source

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