Potential use of stem cells as a therapy for cystinosis

Pediatr Nephrol. 2019 Jun;34(6):965-973. doi: 10.1007/s00467-018-3974-7. Epub 2018 May 22.


Cystinosis is an autosomal recessive metabolic disease that belongs to the family of lysosomal storage disorders (LSDs). Initial symptoms of cystinosis correspond to the renal Fanconi syndrome. Patients then develop chronic kidney disease and multi-organ failure due to accumulation of cystine in all tissue compartments. LSDs are commonly characterized by a defective activity of lysosomal enzymes. Hematopoietic stem and progenitor cell (HSPC) transplantation is a treatment option for several LSDs based on the premise that their progeny will integrate in the affected tissues and secrete the functional enzyme, which will be recaptured by the surrounding deficient cells and restore physiological activity. However, in the case of cystinosis, the defective protein is a transmembrane lysosomal protein, cystinosin. Thus, cystinosin cannot be secreted, and yet, we showed that HSPC transplantation can rescue disease phenotype in the mouse model of cystinosis. In this review, we are describing a different mechanism by which HSPC-derived cells provide cystinosin to diseased cells within tissues, and how HSPC transplantation could be an effective one-time treatment to treat cystinosis but also other LSDs associated with a lysosomal transmembrane protein dysfunction.

Keywords: Cystinosis; Gene therapy; Hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells; Lysosomal storage disorders; Lysosomal transfer; Tunneling nanotubes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cystinosis / therapy*
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation / methods*
  • Humans