Derivation and comparative assessment of retinal pigment epithelium from human embryonic stem cells using transcriptomics

Cloning Stem Cells. 2004;6(3):217-45. doi: 10.1089/clo.2004.6.217.


Human stem-cell derivatives are likely to play an important role in the future of regenerative medicine. Evaluation and comparison to their in vivo counterparts is critical for assessment of their therapeutic potential. Transcriptomics was used to compare a new differentiation derivative of human embryonic stem (hES) cells--retinal pigment epithelium (RPE)--to human fetal RPE. Several hES cell lines were differentiated into putative RPE, which expressed RPEspecific molecular markers and was capable of phagocytosis, an important RPE function. Isolated hES cell-derived RPE was able to transdifferentiate into cells of neuronal lineage and redifferentiate into RPE-like cells through multiple passages (>30 Population doublings). Gene expression profiling demonstrated their higher similarity to primary RPE tissue than of existing human RPE cell lines D407 and ARPE-19, which has been shown to attenuate loss of visual function in animals. This is the first report of the isolation and characterization of putative RPE cells from hES cells, as well as the first application of transcriptomics to assess embryonic stem-cell derivatives and their in vivo counterparts--a "differentiomics" outlook. We describe for the first time, a differentiation system that does not require coculture with animal cells or factors, thus allowing the production of zoonoses-free RPE cells suitable for subretinal transplantation in patients with retinal degenerative diseases. With the further development of therapeutic cloning, or the creation of the banks of homozygous human leucocyte antigen (HLA) hES cells using parthenogenesis, RPE lines could be generated to overcome the problem of immune rejection and could be one of the nearest term applications of stem-cell technology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Differentiation / physiology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Embryo, Mammalian / cytology
  • Embryo, Mammalian / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Electron, Transmission
  • Phagocytosis / physiology*
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / cytology*
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / metabolism
  • Proteome*
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Stem Cells / metabolism


  • Proteome