Evaluation of the Potential Effects of Retinol and Alginate/Gelatin-Based Scaffolds on Differentiation Capacity of Mouse Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) into Retinal Cells

Int J Stem Cells. 2022 May 30;15(2):183-194. doi: 10.15283/ijsc21062.


Background and objectives: Retinal stem cells (RSCs) resided in ciliary epithelium have shown to possess a high capacity to self-renew and differentiate into retinal cells. RSCs could be induced to differentiate when they are exposed to stimuli like natural compounds and suitable contexts such as biomaterials. The aim of this study was to examine the effects of Retinol and alginate/gelatin-based scaffolds on differentiation potential of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) originated from mouse ciliary epithelium.

Methods and results: MSCs were extracted from mouse ciliary epithelium, and their identity was verified by detecting specific surface antigens. To provide a three-dimensional in vitro culture system, 2% alginate, 0.5% gelatin and the mixed alginate-gelatin hydrogels were fabricated and checked by SEM. Retinol treatment was performed on MSCs expanded on alginate/gelatin hydrogels and the survival rate and the ability of MSCs to differentiate were examined through measuring expression alterations of retina-specific genes by ICC and qPCR. The cell population isolated from ciliary epithelium contained more than 93.4% cells positive for MSC-specific marker CD105. Alginate/gelatin scaffolds showed to provide an acceptable viability (over 70%) for MSC cultures. Retinol treatment could induce a high expression of rhodopsin protein in MSCs expanded in alginate and alginate-gelatin mixtures. An elevated presentation of Nestin, RPE65 and Rhodopsin genes was detected in retinol-treated cultures expanded on alginate and alginate-gelatin scaffolds.

Conclusions: The results presented here elucidate that retinol treatment of MSCs grown on alginate scaffolds would promote the mouse ciliary epithelium-derived MSCs to differentiate towards retinal neurons.

Keywords: Alginate; Cell differentiation; Gelatin; Mesenchymal stem cell; Retinal neurons; Scaffolds.