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Brain Res. 2016 Sep 1;1646:522-534. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2016.06.039. Epub 2016 Jun 28.

Human neural progenitor cells decrease photoreceptor degeneration, normalize opsin distribution and support synapse structure in cultured porcine retina.

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School of Health and Medicine, Örebro University, Sweden.
Department of Chemistry and Biomedicine, Linnaeus University, Kalmar, Sweden.
School of Health and Medicine, Örebro University, Sweden. Electronic address:


Retinal neurodegenerative disorders like retinitis pigmentosa, age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and retinal detachment decrease retinal functionality leading to visual impairment. The pathological events are characterized by photoreceptor degeneration, synaptic disassembly, remodeling of postsynaptic neurons and activation of glial cells. Despite intense research, no effective treatment has been found for these disorders. The current study explores the potential of human neural progenitor cell (hNPC) derived factors to slow the degenerative processes in adult porcine retinal explants. Retinas were cultured for 3 days with or without hNPCs as a feeder layer and investigated by terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL), immunohistochemical, western blot and quantitative real time-polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) techniques. TUNEL showed that hNPCs had the capacity to limit photoreceptor cell death. Among cone photoreceptors, hNPC coculture resulted in better maintenance of cone outer segments and reduced opsin mislocalization. Additionally, maintained synaptic structural integrity and preservation of second order calbindin positive horizontal cells was also observed. However, Müller cell gliosis only seemed to be alleviated in terms of reduced Müller cell density. Our observations indicate that at 3 days of coculture, hNPC derived factors had the capacity to protect photoreceptors, maintain synaptic integrity and support horizontal cell survival. Human neural progenitor cell applied treatment modalities may be an effective strategy to help maintain retinal functionality in neurodegenerative pathologies. Whether hNPCs can independently hinder Müller cell gliosis by utilizing higher concentrations or by combination with other pharmacological agents still needs to be determined.


Gliosis; Neuroprotection; Opsin; Photoreceptor degeneration; Synapse

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