Research led by a biology professor in the School of Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) has uncovered a method to produce retinal cells from regenerative human stem cells without the use of animal products, proteins or other foreign substances, which historically have limited the application of stem cells to treat disease and other human developmental disorders.
The study of human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) has been pursued vigorously since they were first discovered in 2007 due to their ability to be manipulated into specific cell types. Scientists believe these cells hold considerable potential for cell replacement, disease modeling and pharmacological testing. However, clinical applications have been hindered by the fact that, to date, the cells have required animal products and proteins to grow and differentiate.
A research team led by Jason S. Meyer, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology, successfully differentiated hiPSCs in a lab environment-completely through chemical methods-to form neural retinal cell types (including photoreceptors and retinal ganglion cells). Tests have shown the cells function and grow just as efficiently as those cells produced through traditional methods.
"Not only were we able to develop these (hiPSC) cells into retinal cells, but we were able to do so in a system devoid of any animal cells and proteins," Meyer said. "Since these kinds of stem cells can be generated from a patient's own cells, there will be nothing the body will recognize as foreign."