Inducible Pluripotent Stem Cells to Model and Treat Inherited Degenerative Diseases of the Outer Retina: 3D-Organoids Limitations and Bioengineering Solutions

Cells. 2021 Sep 20;10(9):2489. doi: 10.3390/cells10092489.


Inherited retinal degenerations (IRD) affecting either photoreceptors or pigment epithelial cells cause progressive visual loss and severe disability, up to complete blindness. Retinal organoids (ROs) technologies opened up the development of human inducible pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC) for disease modeling and replacement therapies. However, hiPSC-derived ROs applications to IRD presently display limited maturation and functionality, with most photoreceptors lacking well-developed outer segments (OS) and light responsiveness comparable to their adult retinal counterparts. In this review, we address for the first time the microenvironment where OS mature, i.e., the subretinal space (SRS), and discuss SRS role in photoreceptors metabolic reprogramming required for OS generation. We also address bioengineering issues to improve culture systems proficiency to promote OS maturation in hiPSC-derived ROs. This issue is crucial, as satisfying the demanding metabolic needs of photoreceptors may unleash hiPSC-derived ROs full potential for disease modeling, drug development, and replacement therapies.

Keywords: aerobic glycolysis; bioengineering; disease modeling; iPSC; inherited retinal degenerations; photoreceptors; retinal organoids; subretinal space; transplantation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bioengineering / methods*
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Humans
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Organoids / cytology*
  • Retinal Degeneration / pathology
  • Retinal Degeneration / therapy*
  • Retinal Pigment Epithelium / cytology*