Human embryonic stem cell-derived retinal pigment epithelial (hESC-RPE) cells could serve as a replacement therapy in advanced stages of age-related macular degeneration. However, allogenic hESC-RPE transplants trigger immune rejection, supporting a strategy to evade their immune recognition. We established single-knockout beta-2 microglobulin (SKO-B2M), class II major histocompatibility complex transactivator (SKO-CIITA) and double-knockout (DKO) hESC lines that were further differentiated into corresponding hESC-RPE lines lacking either surface human leukocyte antigen class I (HLA-I) or HLA-II, or both. Activation of CD4+ and CD8+ T-cells was markedly lower by hESC-RPE DKO cells, while natural killer cell cytotoxic response was not increased. After transplantation of SKO-B2M, SKO-CIITA, or DKO hESC-RPEs in a preclinical rabbit model, donor cell rejection was reduced and delayed. In conclusion, we have developed cell lines that lack both HLA-I and -II antigens, which evoke reduced T-cell responses in vitro together with reduced rejection in a large-eyed animal model.
Keywords: HLA-I knockout; HLA-II knockout; cellular therapy; human embryonic stem cells; immune evasion; retinal pigment epithelium; subretinal injection; transplantation rejection; xenogeneic transplant; xenograft model.
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