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Subretinal Transplantation of Human Embryonic Stem Cell-Derived Retinal Tissue in a Feline Large Animal Model

Laurence M. Occelli*1, Felipe Marinho*1, Ratnesh K. Singh2, Francois Binette2, Igor O. Nasonkin2, Simon M. Petersen-Jones1
* These authors contributed equally

Abstract

Retinal degenerative (RD) conditions associated with photoreceptor loss such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and Leber Congenital Amaurosis (LCA) cause progressive and debilitating vision loss. There is an unmet need for therapies that can restore vision once photoreceptors have been lost. Transplantation of human pluripotent stem cell (hPSC)-derived retinal tissue (organoids) into the subretinal space of an eye with advanced RD brings retinal tissue sheets with thousands of healthy mutation-free photoreceptors and has a potential to treat most/all blinding diseases associated with photoreceptor degeneration with one approved protocol. Transplantation of fetal retinal tissue into the subretinal space of animal models and people with advanced RD has been developed successfully but cannot be used as a routine therapy due to ethical concerns and limited tissue supply. Large eye inherited retinal degeneration (IRD) animal models are valuable for developing vision restoration therapies utilizing advanced surgical approaches to transplant retinal cells/tissue into the subretinal space. The similarities in globe size, and photoreceptor distribution (e.g., presence of macula-like region area centralis) and availability of IRD models closely recapitulating human IRD would facilitate rapid translation of a promising therapy to the clinic. Presented here is a surgical technique of transplanting hPSC-derived retinal tissue into the subretinal space of a large animal model allowing assessment of this promising approach in animal models.

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