Strategies for retinal cell generation from human pluripotent stem cells

Lindsey S. Weed, Jason A. Mills


Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are specialized self-renewing cells that are generated by exogenously expressing pluripotency-associated transcription factors in somatic cells such as fibroblasts, peripheral blood mononuclear cells, or lymphoblastoid cell lines (LCLs). iPSCs are functionally similar to naturally pluripotent embryonic stem cells (ESCs) in their capacity to propagate indefinitely and potential to differentiate into all human cell types, and are devoid of the associated ethical complications of origin. iPSCs are useful for studying embryonic development, disease modeling, and drug screening. Additionally, iPSCs provide a personalized approach for pathological studies, particularly for diseases that lack appropriate animal models. Retinal cell differentiations using iPSCs have been successful in this regard. Several protocols to generate various retinal cells have been developed to maximize a specific cell type or, most recently, to mimic in vivo retinal structure and cellular environment. As differentiation protocols continue to improve we are likely to see an increase in our basic understanding of various retinal degenerative diseases and the utilization of iPSCs in clinical trials.