Human pluripotent stem cells offer a powerful system to study human biology and disease. Here, we report a system to both express transgenes specifically in ES cell derived hematopoietic cells and knockdown gene expression stably throughout the differentiation of ES cells. We characterize a CD43 promoter construct that when inserted into the AAVS1 "safe harbor" locus utilizing a zinc finger nuclease specifically drives GFP expression in hematopoietic cells derived from a transgenic ES cell line and faithfully recapitulates endogenous CD43 expression. In addition, using the same gene targeting strategy we demonstrate that constitutive expression of short hairpin RNAs within a microRNA backbone can suppress expression of PU.1, an important regulator of myeloid cell development. We show that PU.1 knockdown cell lines display an inhibition in myeloid cell formation and skewing towards erythroid development. Overall, we have generated a powerful system to track hematopoietic development from pluripotent stem cells and study gene function through hematopoietic specific gene expression and constitutive gene knockdown.
Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) hold great promise for modeling human hematopoietic diseases. However, intrinsic variability in the capacities of different iPSC lines for hematopoietic development complicates comparative studies and is currently unexplained. We created and analyzed 3 separate iPSC clones from fibroblasts of 3 different normal individuals using a standardized approach that included excision of integrated reprogramming genes by Cre-Lox mediated recombination. Gene expression profiling and hematopoietic differentiation assays showed that independent lines from the same individual were generally more similar to one another than those from different individuals. However, one iPSC line (WT2.1) exhibited a distinctly different gene expression, proliferation rate, and hematopoietic developmental potential relative to all other iPSC lines. This "outlier" clone also acquired extensive copy number variations (CNVs) during reprogramming, which may be responsible for its divergent properties. Our data indicate how inherent and acquired genetic differences can influence iPSC properties, including hematopoietic potential.
Choroideremia (CHM) is an X- linked retinal degeneration that is symptomatic in the 1(st) or 2(nd) decade of life causing nyctalopia and loss of peripheral vision. The disease progresses through mid-life, when most patients become blind. CHM is a favorable target for gene augmentation therapy, as the disease is due to loss of function of a protein necessary for retinal cell health, Rab Escort Protein 1 (REP1).The CHM cDNA can be packaged in recombinant adeno-associated virus (rAAV), which has an established track record in human gene therapy studies, and, in addition, there are sensitive and quantitative assays to document REP1 activity. An animal model that accurately reflects the human condition is not available. In this study, we tested the ability to restore REP1 function in personalized in vitro models of CHM: lymphoblasts and induced pluripotent stems cells (iPSCs) from human patients. The initial step of evaluating safety of the treatment was carried out by evaluating for acute retinal histopathologic effects in normal-sighted mice and no obvious toxicity was identified. Delivery of the CHM cDNA to affected cells restores REP1 enzymatic activity and also restores proper protein trafficking. The gene transfer is efficient and the preliminary safety data are encouraging. These studies pave the way for a human clinical trial of gene therapy for CHM.
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