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Exp Eye Res. 2008 Apr;86(4):691-700. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2008.01.018. Epub 2008 Feb 3.

Retinal cells integrate into the outer nuclear layer and differentiate into mature photoreceptors after subretinal transplantation into adult mice.

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Department of Ophthalmology, University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf, 20246 Hamburg, Germany.


Vision impairment caused by degeneration of photoreceptors, termed retinitis pigmentosa, is a debilitating condition with no cure presently available. Cell-based therapeutic approaches represent one treatment option by replacing degenerating or lost photoreceptors. In this study the potential of transplanted primary retinal cells isolated from neonatal mice to integrate into the outer nuclear layer (ONL) of adult mice and to differentiate into mature photoreceptors was evaluated. Retinal cells were isolated from retinas of transgenic mice ubiquitously expressing enhanced green fluorescence protein (EGFP) at either postnatal day (P) 0, P1 or P4 and transplanted into the subretinal space of adult wild-type mice. One week to 11 months post-transplantation experimental retinas were analyzed for integration and differentiation of donor cells. Subsequent to transplantation some postnatal retinal cells integrated into the ONL of the host and differentiated into mature photoreceptors containing inner and outer segments as confirmed by immunohistochemistry and electron microscopy. Notably, the appearance of EGFP-positive photoreceptors was not the result of fusion between donor cells and endogenous photoreceptors. Retinal cells isolated at P4 showed a significant increase in their capacity to integrate into the ONL and to differentiate into mature photoreceptors when compared with cells isolated at P0 or P1. As cell suspensions isolated at P4 are enriched in cells committed towards a rod photoreceptor cell fate it is tempting to speculate that immature photoreceptors may have the highest integration and differentiation potential and thus may present a promising cell type to develop cell replacement strategies for diseases involving rod photoreceptor loss.

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