Purpose: The potential of stem cells (SCs) as a source for cell-based therapy on a wide range of degenerative diseases and damaged tissues such as retinal degeneration has been recognized. Generation of a high number of retinal stem cells (RSCs) in vitro would thus be beneficial for transplantation in the retina. However, as cells in prolonged cultivation may be unstable and thus have a risk of transformation, it is important to assess the stability of these cells.
Methods: Chromosomal aberrations were analyzed in mouse RSC lines isolated from adult and from postnatal day (PN)1 mouse retinas. Moreover, selected cell lines were tested for anchorage-dependent proliferation, and SCs were transplanted into immunocompromised mice to assess the possibility of transformation.
Results: Marked aneuploidy occurred in all adult cell lines, albeit to different degrees, and neonatal RSCs were the most stable and displayed a normal karyotype until at least passage 9. Of interest, the level of aneuploidy of adult RSCs did not necessarily correlate with cell transformation. Only the adult RSC lines passaged for longer periods and with a higher dilution ratio underwent transformation. Furthermore, we identified several cell cycle proteins that might support the continuous proliferation and transformation of the cells.
Conclusions: Adult RSCs rapidly accumulated severe chromosomal aberrations during cultivation, which led to cell transformation in some cell lines. The culture condition plays an important role in supporting the selection and growth of transformed cells.