Inherited retinal diseases (IRDs) are a diverse group of rare eye disorders, resulting in vision loss or blindness. The underlying reason is mutation in one or more than 250 different genes associated with the development and normal physiology of retina largely comprising of rod/cone photoreceptors and retinal pigment epithelium. Interestingly, the sub retinal region of an eye has been shown to be immune privileged, broadening the scope of cell-replacement therapies for patients suffering from retinal degeneration. Several groups around the globe, including ours, have demonstrated safety and efficacy in preclinical studies by employing various approaches of retinal cell therapy. This had largely been possible with the advent of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC)-reprogrammed from adult somatic cells, that serves as a starting material for generating retinal cells de novo. Here, we describe a detailed procedure for reprogramming peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) into iPSC using episomal vectors without any physical disruption in the host genome. The lines thus created were tested for sterility, cytogenetic stability, identity, absence of episomal plasmids and further authenticated for pluripotency and tri-lineage differentiation capacity by embryoid body formation and immunocytochemistry. We believe that this feeder-cell free, animal-product free and gene-insertion free protocol would help people to develop and bank patient-specific cell lines for autologous cell therapies for incurable rare diseases.
Keywords: Episomal vectors; Human induced pluripotent stem cells; Integration-free reprogramming; Peripheral blood mononuclear cells; Yamanaka factors.