Systemically transferred hematopoietic stem cells home to the subretinal space and express RPE-65 in a mouse model of retinal pigment epithelium damage

Exp Eye Res. 2006 Nov;83(5):1295-302. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2006.07.013. Epub 2006 Sep 1.


Stem cell regeneration of damaged tissue has recently been reported in many different organs. Since the loss of retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) in the eye is associated with a major cause of visual loss - specifically, age-related macular degeneration - we investigated whether hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) given systemically can home to the damaged subretinal space and express markers of RPE lineage. Green fluorescent protein (GFP) cells of bone marrow origin were used in a sodium iodate (NaIO(3)) model of RPE damage in the mouse. The optimal time for adoptive transfer of bone marrow-derived stem cells relative to the time of injury and the optimal cell type [whole bone marrow, mobilized peripheral blood, HSC, facilitating cells (FC)] were determined by counting the number of GFP(+) cells in whole eye flat mounts. Immunocytochemistry was performed to identify the bone marrow origin of the cells in the RPE using antibodies for CD45, Sca-1, and c-kit, as well as the expression of the RPE-specific marker, RPE-65. The time at which bone marrow-derived cells were adoptively transferred relative to the time of NaIO(3) injection did not significantly influence the number of cells that homed to the subretinal space. At both one and two weeks after intravenous (i.v.) injection, GFP(+) cells of bone marrow origin were observed in the damaged subretinal space, at sites of RPE loss, but not in the normal subretinal space. The combined transplantation of HSC+FC cells appeared to favor the survival of the homed stem cells at two weeks, and RPE-65 was expressed by adoptively transferred HSC by four weeks. We have shown that systemically injected HSC homed to the subretinal space in the presence of RPE damage and that FC promoted survival of these cells. Furthermore, the RPE-specific marker RPE-65 was expressed on adoptively transferred HSC in the denuded areas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Cell Lineage / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / analysis
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation / methods
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods
  • Iodates
  • Luminescent Agents / analysis
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / pathology
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / physiopathology*
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / physiology
  • Retinal Degeneration / physiopathology*
  • Retinal Degeneration / surgery


  • Iodates
  • Luminescent Agents
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • sodium iodate