Mass-producing RPE cells paves way to treating AMD

May 21, 2013

New treatments for age-related macular degeneration may be on the horizon because researchers are now able to develop pluripotent stem cells faster and easier.

Durham, NC-Scientists have developed a new, simpler way to produce human pluripotent stem cells in quantities large enough that they can be used to develop treatments for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The results of this new study are published in the May issue of Stem Cells Translational Medicine

“As a result, there has been significant interest in developing retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) culture systems both to study AMD disease mechanisms and to provide substrate for possible cell-based therapies,” said Donald Zack, MD, PhD, who with Julien Maruotti, PhD, led the team of researchers from the Wilmer Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, and the Institute of Vision in Paris in conducting the study.

The Zack/Maruotti team simplified RPE cell production by modifying a standard protocol for isolating the cells from spontaneously differentiating human pluripotent stem cell (hPSC) monolayers. In the new method, hPSCs were amplified by clonal propagation and the RPE cells enriched by serial passage rather than mechanical picking.

“These modifications eliminate the need for the time- and labor-consuming manual steps usually required to culture hPSCs and to purify the RPE population, and thereby provide a readily scalable approach to generate large numbers of high quality RPE cells-up to 36 times more than the best protocols previously reported during the same time interval,” Dr. Zack said.