Modeling early retinal development with human
embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cells
Jason S. Meyera, Rebecca L. Shearera, Elizabeth E. Capowskia, Lynda S. Wrighta, Kyle A. Wallacea, Erin L. McMillana,
Su-Chun Zhanga,b, and David M. Gamma,c,d,1
aStem Cell Research Program, Waisman Center,bDepartments of Anatomy and Neurology,cDepartment of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, anddEye
Research Institute, 1500 Highland Avenue, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison WI 53705
Edited by James Thomson, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, and approved July 23, 2009 (received for review May 15, 2009)
Human pluripotent stem cells have the potential to provide compre-
hensive model systems for the earliest stages of human ontogenesis.
To serve in this capacity, these cells must undergo a targeted,
stepwise differentiation process that follows a normal developmen-
tal timeline. Here we demonstrate the ability of both human embry-
these requirements for human retinogenesis. Upon differentiation,
hESCs initially yielded a highly enriched population of early eye field
cells. Thereafter, a subset of cells acquired features of advancing
vivo human retinal development. Application of this culture method
to a human iPS cell line also generated retina-specific cell types at
comparable times in vitro. Lastly, altering endogenous signaling
during differentiation affected lineage-specific gene expression in a
manner consistent with established mechanisms of early neural and
retinal cell fate determination. These findings should aid in the
investigation of the molecular events governing retinal specification
from human pluripotent stem cells.
cellular and molecular events that occur during human embryo-
genesis, organogenesis, and tissue differentiation. However, the
advent of human pluripotent stem cell technology affords a unique
opportunity to follow the full course of lineage-specific cell pro-
duction in vitro (1, 2). The retina provides an optimal system to
investigate this potential due to its well-defined and conserved
developmental program and the availability of markers to distin-
guish each major stage of early retinogenesis. In addition, human
embryonic stem cells (hESCs) display a propensity to produce cells
with retinal characteristics (3, 4). One criterion for assessing hESC-
based developmental model systems is the capacity to recapitulate
the normal maturation sequence present in the embryo in a
controlled, stepwise fashion (1, 2). Preferably, such systems should
also provide the opportunity to test the effects of developmental
stimuli and enrich for early cell populations, thereby reducing
contamination from undesired and/or unidentified cell lineages.
To date, hESC studies have focused on the derivation of
subsets of retinal cell populations, with emphasis on the pro-
duction of either retinal progenitors (5, 6) or more mature cells
such as retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) (3, 4) or photorecep-
tors (7). Many of these studies used various exogenous factors to
increase the percentage of early retinal cell types present within
these recent advances, the ability of hESCs to produce a highly
enriched population of cells at the earliest stage of retinal
specification that can progress through each of the key devel-
opmental stages of the retina has yet to be demonstrated.
Moreover, the timing of onset of selected stages in retinal
development has varied widely among published human pluri-
potent stem cell differentiation protocols, none of which ap-
proximated the timeline of normal human retinogenesis (5–9).
We addressed these issues first by examining each major step
in the development of definitive retinal cell populations from
hESCs. In doing so, we demonstrated that cell fate specification
he study of human development is limited by a lack of model
systems that can reproduce the precise sequence and timing of
and maturation follows a sequence and time course highly
reminiscent of normal retinal development. Furthermore, the
process of retinal differentiation could be selectively altered via
manipulation of endogenous developmental signaling pathways.
We then investigated whether the same culture method was
capable of generating an identical cohort of developing retinal
cell types from human induced pluripotent stem cells, a recently
described source of pluripotent stem cells derived from skin
fibroblasts (10, 11). Cell populations expressing morphologic
features and/or markers of the eye field, retinal pigment epithe-
lium, neural retinal progenitors, photoreceptor precursors, and
photoreceptors were observed in differentiating human iPS cell
cultures at time points predicted by results using hESCs. These
findings support a role for human pluripotent stem cells as in
specification and differentiation of individual retinal cell types.
Eye Field Specification from Human Embryonic Stem Cells.The appear-
ance of eye field cells within primitive anterior neuroepithelium
is the first phase in the stepwise production of a retinal pheno-
type from an undifferentiated pluripotent stem cell (12, 13) (Fig.
1A). Previous reports have demonstrated that hESC-derived
neuroectodermal cells will adopt anterior neuroepithelial char-
acteristics in the absence of exogenous signaling molecules (14,
15). In the current study (Fig. 1B), hESCs were differentiated as
free-floating hESC aggregates and prompted to adhere to
laminin-coated culture dishes to permit neural rosette forma-
process, hESCs rapidly lost expression of the pluripotency genes
Oct4 and Nanog and acquired expression of transcription factors
associated with eye field specification (Rx, Six3, Six6, Lhx2, Tll),
(Pax6, Sox1, Sox2) (Fig. 1C). In RT-PCR experiments, Pax6 was
present as a doublet band, reflecting the expression of both the
Pax6(?5a) and Pax6(?5a) isoforms. The appropriate staging
and lineage of this early cell population was further supported by
the absence of the photoreceptor precursor-specific transcrip-
tion factor Crx and the spinal cord-associated transcription
factor HoxB4, as well as markers of other germ layers such as
brachyury (mesoderm) and alpha-fetoprotein (endoderm). Im-
munocytochemistry showed that nearly all cells within these
Author contributions: J.S.M., E.E.C., and D.M.G. designed research; J.S.M., R.L.S., K.A.W.,
and E.L.M. performed research; S.-C.Z. contributed new reagents/analytic tools; J.S.M.,
R.L.S., E.E.C., L.S.W., K.A.W., S.-C.Z., and D.M.G. analyzed data; and J.S.M., L.S.W., and
D.M.G. wrote the paper.
The authors declare no conflict of interest.
This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.
See Commentary on page 16543.
1To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: email@example.com.
This article contains supporting information online at www.pnas.org/cgi/content/full/
September 29, 2009 ?
vol. 106 ?
1F) by day 10 of differentiation.
and Rx (7, 16). Therefore, the gene and protein expression of these
two transcription factors was examined in further detail. RT-PCR
and quantitative PCR (qPCR) analyses revealed the onset of
expression of both Pax6 and Rx within the first few days of
differentiation (Fig. 2 A–C), which was closely correlated with loss
both Pax6 and Rx within 10 days of differentiation as determined
by immunocytochemistry (Fig. 2D). Cell populations were then
The onset of Pax6 and Rx expression was detected by day 6, when
approximately 25% of all cells expressed these factors. Expression
of Pax6 and Rx surpassed 90% of cells by day 10 of differentiation
and increased to greater than 95% by day 16. Conversely, protein
expression of Oct4 decreased to an undetectable level by day 10 of
differentiation. The generation of a high percentage of cells with
eye field characteristics in the absence of exogenous Wnt and BMP
antagonists prompted further investigation into the endogenous
expression of Dkk-1 and Noggin in differentiating hESC cultures.
Both genes were up-regulated during eye field specification (Fig.
2F) as determined by qPCR. Furthermore, Western analysis de-
tected protein expression of Dkk-1 and Noggin at day 10 of
over the first 10 days of differentiation abolished both the expres-
sion of Pax6 and Rx (Fig. 2H) and the appearance of neuroepi-
thelial colonies (Fig. S1). Endogenous FGF signaling was also
involved in the acquisition of early eye field features, since the
addition of SU5402, a potent and specific inhibitor of the FGFR1
receptor, led to a complete loss of both Pax6 and Rx expression at
day 10 of differentiation (Fig. S2).
beginning with the establishment of the eye field within the anterior neuroep-
expression of various transcription factors. (B) Schematic of the differentiation
protocol used to generate cells of a retinal lineage. (C) RT-PCR analysis of the
changes in gene expression toward an eye field fate through the first 16 days of
differentiation. (D–F) Immunocytochemistry of typical hESC aggregates 10 days
after differentiation, demonstrating the expression of the anterior neural tran-
scription factor Otx2 (D), the eye field transcription factor Lhx2 (E), and the
definitive neural transcription factor Sox1 (F). (Scale bar, 200 ?m.)
Commitment toward a retinal lineage occurs as a stepwise process,
Oct4. (B and C) qPCR analysis of Oct4 gene expression (B) and Pax6 and Rx gene
expression (C). Values were expressed as fold change relative to undifferentiated
hESCs. (D) Immunocytochemical analysis of cells at day 10 showing uniform coex-
pression of Pax6 and Rx (merged image includes ToPro-3 nuclear stain). (E) FACS
histograms. (F and G) qPCR (F) and Western analysis (G) demonstrating the endog-
enous expression of the BMP and Wnt antagonists Noggin and Dkk-1. (H) qPCR
Meyer et al.PNAS ?
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Acquisition of Optic Vesicle and Optic Cup Cell Phenotypes. The next
phase in retinal specification in vivo occurs with the formation of
the optic vesicles from the paired eye fields. At this stage, all cells
that will give rise to either the neural retina or the RPE express the
transcription factor Mitf (17). The subset of Mitf? cells destined to
become neural retina subsequently down-regulate Mitf in response
to the onset of Chx10 (also called Vsx2) expression (18, 19). When
eye field rosettes were lifted and grown as neurospheres, near
uniform expression of Mitf protein was observed within 14.7 ?
2.1% of all spheres by day 30 of differentiation (Fig. 3A). qPCR
analysis further demonstrated that gene expression of Mitf in-
creased from day 16 to day 37 of differentiation (Fig. 3B). Next, the
relationship between Mitf and Chx10 protein expression was ex-
30 (Fig. 3C). Coexpression of Mitf and Chx10 was prevalent by day
40 (Fig. 3D), followed by mutually exclusive expression of Chx10
and Mitf by day 50 as Mitf expression diminished within Chx10?
neurospheres (Fig. 3E). qPCR analysis confirmed that Chx10 gene
expression was delayed relative to Mitf (Fig. 3F). Similar to Mitf,
Chx10 protein was eventually detected in nearly all cells of the
subset of neurospheres in which it was expressed (Fig. 3G). Quan-
tification of Chx10 protein expression demonstrated that 18.0 ?
3.3% of all neurospheres contained Chx10? cells by day 40 of
differentiation (Fig. S3A), and within these Chx10-expressing
spheres, 90.7% ? 5.2% of cells expressed Chx10 by day 50 (Fig.
Chx10 at day 40 (Fig. 3H). The remaining Chx10-negative neuro-
spheres derived from the early eye field cell population maintained
a neural fate as indicated by expression of Sox1 and ?III-tubulin
(Fig. S4 A–F, and J). Non-retinal neurospheres also expressed
forebrain markers, including Otx2 (Fig. S4 G–I, and J), but did not
express endoderm (alpha-fetoprotein), mesoderm (brachyury),
hindbrain (HoxB4), or midbrain (En-1) markers (Fig. S4J).
Among those individual cells that expressed Chx10, greater than
retinal progenitor cells (20) (Fig. 3I). Furthermore, many of the
Chx10? clusters were arranged in rosettes with cells oriented
radially away from a core that was positive for the tight junction
protein ZO-1 (Fig. 3J), a feature associated with progenitor pop-
ulations (14). While clusters that contained Chx10? cells included
coexpressed Chx10. Thus, Chx10 expression was associated with a
neural cell type that had not yet acquired a mature neuronal
Given the potential role of FGF signaling in the specification of
the neural retina (21), we next examined the effect of the specific
FGF inhibitor SU5402, on Mitf and Chx10 gene expression. The
addition of SU5402 to adherent hESC cultures during the optic
vesicle and optic cup stages of differentiation (days 16–40) resulted
in an 11.8-fold increase in Mitf gene expression at day 40, as
measured by qPCR (Fig. 3L). By contrast, Chx10 expression was
reduced 15.9-fold as a result of this treatment.
Differentiation of Retinal Cell Types from hESC-Derived Retinal Pro-
genitors. The RPE is the first differentiated retinal cell type to
appear during retinogenesis, arising from a population of Mitf?
When Pax6?/Rx? eye field rosettes were maintained as adherent
These cells maintained expression of the transcription factor Mitf,
while also expressing the RPE-associated tight junction protein
that 25% of all adherent cells expressed Mitf, and 77% of all cells
expressed Pax6 (Fig. 4C). RT-PCR analysis demonstrated main-
tained expression of Pax6 in this cell population over time, as well
as the acquisition of more mature RPE-associated markers such as
RPE65 and bestrophin (Fig. 4D).
Prolonged maintenance of the hESC-derived retinal progen-
itors as neurospheres allowed for further maturation of these
cells toward a photoreceptor phenotype. Among the first dif-
ferentiated neural retinal phenotypes observed during develop-
ment are cone photoreceptors (22, 23), whose precursors express
the primitive cone and rod photoreceptor-specific transcription
factor Crx (24). By day 80 of differentiation, 19.4 ? 3.1% of all
protein expression in neurospheres after 30 days of differentiation. (B) qPCR
analysis of Mitf gene expression over the first 80 days of differentiation. (C–E)
Immunocytochemical analyses of the time course of Mitf and Chx10 protein
expression in neurospheres at 30 (C), 40 (D), or 50 (E) days of differentiation.
(F) qPCR analysis of Chx10 gene expression over the first 80 days of differen-
day 40. (H) FACS analysis demonstrating the percentage of all cells expressing
Chx10 at day 40. (I) Immunocytochemical analysis showed all Chx10? cells
coexpressed Pax6 at day 40. (J) Rosettes of Chx10? cells expressed the tight
junction protein ZO-1 within their core. (K) Rare Chx10? cells coexpressed ?III
tubulin at day 40. (L) qPCR demonstrating increased Mitf expression and
corresponding decreased Chx10 expression in adherent cultures treated with
the FGF inhibitor SU5402. qPCR values were expressed as fold change relative
to cultures at day 16 (B and F) or day 10 (L) of differentiation. (Scale bars, 500
stain in A and G is Hoechst nuclear dye.)
Acquisition of optic vesicle and optic cup cell phenotypes. (A) Mitf
www.pnas.org?cgi?doi?10.1073?pnas.0905245106Meyer et al.
neurospheres contained Crx? photoreceptor precursors (Fig.
Crx. Furthermore, 46.4 ? 7.9% of Crx? cells expressed more
mature photoreceptor markers, such as recoverin (Fig. 5B)
and/or the cone photoreceptor-specific protein opsin (Fig. 5C).
Recoverin and opsin expression was not observed in Crx-
To analyze the time course and sequential acquisition of
neuroretinal- and photoreceptor-associated gene expression,
RT-PCR analysis was performed (Fig. 5D). Throughout the
differentiation process from day 16 through day 80, Pax6 gene
expression was detected. Rx gene expression was also present
early in differentiation, followed by the consecutive expression
of Chx10, Crx, and opsin. Overall, the timing of expression of the
gene and protein markers used in this study coincided with that
of normal human retinal development (22, 23) (Fig. S5).
During normal retinogenesis, the Pax6(?5a) isoform is ex-
pressed in increasing abundance relative to total Pax6 (25). RT-
PCR results from the present study similarly suggested that the
Pax6(?5a) isoform became more prevalent during hESC differen-
tiation (Figs. 2A and 5D). To verify this observation, qPCR of the
(Fig. S6). This analysis confirmed the onset of Pax6(?5a) expres-
sion between days 4 and 16 of differentiation and demonstrated a
relative increase in the expression of this isoform between days 60
and 70, which corresponded to the appearance of photoreceptor-
like cells in culture.
Differentiation of Retinal Cell Types from Human iPS Cells. To
determine the potential for stepwise derivation of retinal cell types
to four different human iPS cell lines. Consistent with a previous
report (11), considerable variation was found in the ability of these
lines to produce Pax6? neuroectodermal cells at day 10 of differ-
cell line in greater detail. Upon differentiation, the appearances of
the iPS cell colonies, iPS cell aggregates, neural rosettes and
During differentiation, immunocytochemistry revealed early eye
also expressed a full complement of eye field and neuroepithelial
transcription factors (Fig. S8). Discrete populations of Mitf? cells
were observed upon further differentiation of eye field colonies as
neurospheres (Fig. 6B). Like their hESC counterparts, many of
these iPS cell neurospheres appeared to lose Mitf expression in
favor of Chx10 expression (Fig. 6C), yielding neurospheres that
were highly enriched for Chx10? cells (Fig. 6D). Among the total
population, 12.9 ? 4.3% of all neurospheres expressed Chx10 at 40
days of differentiation, within which 90.1 ? 1.2% of all cells
expressed Chx10. Over time, photoreceptor markers appeared,
such as the rod- and cone-specific transcription factor Crx, which
was present in 14.4 ? 5.1% of all neurospheres by day 80 (Fig. 6E).
Similar to the expression of earlier markers of retinal differentia-
tion, Crx? cells were common within individual positive neuro-
spheres, constituting 65.5 ? 9.3% of cells. At day 80, 44.6 ? 8.1%
of cells within Crx? clusters expressed recoverin (Fig. 6F) and/or
opsin (Fig. 6 G and H). As with hESCs, recoverin and opsin
expression was not found in Crx-negative cells. PCR analysis
confirmed the sequence and timing of gene expression of these
monolayers arising by day 50 (Fig. 6J). Like hESC-derived RPE,
these cells possessed morphological characteristics of mature RPE
and expressed Mitf and ZO-1 (Fig. 6K).
The results presented here demonstrate that human pluripotent
stem cells can adopt signature features associated with all major
stages of early eye and retinal development, while following an
expected timeline for human retinal development (22, 23).
Although previous reports have shown that hESCs can acquire
retinal characteristics at various times during differentiation
(3–7), many markers used to identify primitive retinal cell types
are also expressed in other developing neural cells. This makes
it difficult to unequivocally assign immature cell types to the
retinal lineage without knowledge of their dynamic behavior in
culture. Thus, it is important to monitor each stage of cellular
maturation to ensure that critical developmental checkpoints are
met in order and within a predictable time frame.
In the first few weeks of human development, a portion of the
26, 27), a cell population characterized by the expression of
numerous transcription factors including Pax6, Rx, Six3, Six6, Tll,
and Lhx2. We have demonstrated that the production of Pax6?/
essential transcription factors. This efficiency is likely due in part to
a relative lack of influence from endogenous BMP and Wnt
signaling, since both pathways are known to antagonize neural
specification (28, 29). In support of this theory, increasing expres-
was observed in hESC cultures shortly after the onset of differen-
tiation. Early exposure of differentiating hESCs to recombinant
as the subsequent formation of neural rosettes.
Although Pax6 and Rx have been used to identify retinal
progenitor cells in differentiating ESC cultures (7, 16), during
of the anterior neural plate that includes the eye field and future
forebrain (16). Thereafter, Pax6?/Rx? cells become restricted to
more specific areas of the developing CNS (16), predominantly the
retina (26, 30). In the present study, the majority of the early
Pax6?/Rx? population did not subsequently adopt cellular phe-
adherent cultures showing pigmented, hexagonal RPE-like cells. (B) Immuno-
staining revealing expression of Mitf within RPE-like cells, as well as the tight
junction protein ZO-1. (C) FACS analysis demonstrating the percentage of all
adherent cells expressing Mitf and Pax6 at day 40 of differentiation. (D)
bars, 100 ?m.)
Generation of retinal pigment epithelium. (A) Photomicrograph of
Meyer et al.PNAS ?
September 29, 2009 ?
vol. 106 ?
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neural identity. Therefore, the enriched Pax6?/Rx? cell popula-
tion derived in this study most closely resembled a primitive stage
committed retinal progenitors.
After the optic vesicles evaginate from the paired eye fields,
expression of Mitf occurs throughout cells fated to become retina
(12, 17). However, the decision to differentiate toward either a
neural retina or RPE fate is revealed during the late optic vesicle
and optic cup stages, in part via differential expression of the
transcription factor Chx10 (18, 19). Neural retinal progenitors
destined for the inner layer of the optic cup express Chx10 and
down-regulate Mitf in response to FGFs secreted by the overlying
surface ectoderm. Thus, Chx10 is the earliest specific marker of
neural retinal progenitor cells (19). Conversely, cells destined for
the outer layer of the optic cup remain Mitf? and Chx10-negative
and subsequently differentiate into RPE. Our results provide
evidence that hESCs proceed through analogous stages of early
retinal differentiation, as indicated by the spatiotemporal expres-
endogenous FGF signaling during the optic vesicle and optic cup
stages of hESC differentiation resulted in a profound increase in
Mitf gene expression and a corresponding decrease in Chx10 gene
expression. This suggests that mechanisms governing cell fate
choice in the developing retina may also function in differentiating
After adopting a retinal fate, individual neurospheres yielded a
high percentage of photoreceptor precursors in a time frame
predicted by normal human retinogenesis. As with earlier stages of
retinal differentiation, this was achieved without the addition of
specific exogenous agents. Previously, retinoic acid and taurine had
been used to induce differentiation of photoreceptor-like cells (7).
By eliminating such agents, the present system is suited for the
investigation of endogenous factors and mechanisms that affect
differentiation and maturation of specific retinal cell types.
Taking into account the entire hESC population present at the
start of the differentiation process, we observed a decrease in
targeted cell production with each subsequent stage of retinal
differentiation. This observation is consistent with normal ret-
inal development, where early cell types often give rise to
multiple distinct progeny of the same lineage. However, there
now exist opportunities to introduce exogenous factors for
defined time periods to augment production of retinal cell types
at specific developmental stages. Such precision is likely to be
important, since a single factor can have diverse effects on
cellular fate choice depending on the stage of development (31).
For example, we observed that early inhibition of endogenous
FGF signaling in differentiating hESCs resulted in a loss of eye
field specification, whereas later inhibition differentially regu-
lated genes important for the induction of RPE and neural retina
progenitors. Manipulation of the culture environment with
ical detection of cells expressing the photoreceptor-specific transcription factor
Crx at 80 days of differentiation. (B and C) Expression of the photoreceptor
protein recoverin (B) and the cone photoreceptor-specific protein opsin (C)
among Crx-expressing cells at day 80. (D) RT-PCR demonstrated the stepwise
50 ?m.) Blue stain in A is Hoechst nuclear dye.
Generation of early photoreceptor phenotypes. (A) Immunocytochem-
cells by day 10. (B–D) Mitf? and Chx10? cells, indicative of the optic vesicle/
optic cup stages, are evident by day 40. (E) By day 80, clusters were present
containing Chx10? retinal progenitors and Crx? photoreceptor precursor
cells. (F–H) Many Crx-expressing cells expressed the photoreceptor protein
recoverin (F) and the cone-specific protein opsin (G and H). (I) RT-PCR analysis
demonstrating the stepwise expression of retina- and photoreceptor-
associated genes in differentiating iPS cells over time. (J and K) RPE cells
derived from iPS cells acquired a typical hexagonal morphology and pigmen-
tation (J) and expressed Mitf and ZO-1 (K). (Scale bars, 50 ?m.) Blue stain in B
and D is Hoechst nuclear dye; blue stain in F is To-Pro-3 nuclear dye.
www.pnas.org?cgi?doi?10.1073?pnas.0905245106Meyer et al.
signaling factors may also alter the time course of retinal cell Download full-text
differentiation from hESCs. This is suggested by the striking
differences in the timing of photoreceptor marker expression
observed in previous studies, in which the onset of Crx expres-
sion ranged from one to thirteen weeks (6, 7).
Given the ability of hESCs to mimic normal human retinogen-
esis, we investigated whether another source of human pluripotent
stem cells, iPS cells, displayed a similar potential. A previous report
by Yu et al. (11) showed that human iPS cell lines differed in their
early expression of Pax6, a finding confirmed here. Since Pax6
expression is necessary for retinal development, it is not surprising
that one of the highest Pax6-expressing lines from that study,
iPS cell lines displayed reduced competency to produce neural and
retinal cell types, a phenomenon also observed by Hirami et al. (8).
Therefore, present techniques for deriving iPS cells from somatic
cells do not always yield uniform lineage competencies between
A detailed knowledge of the stages and time course of retinal
differentiation from hESCs and iPS cells not only provides an
opportunity to study fundamental questions of human retinal
development, but may also aid efforts to use pluripotent stem cell
derivatives for pharmaceutical testing and retinal repopulation
studies. A previous report by MacLaren et al. (32) demonstrated
that cells from a specific stage of mouse retinal development were
capable of functionally integrating into degenerate adult mouse
retinas. More recently, Lamba et al. (33) noted similar results using
a mixture of retinal cell types derived from hESCs. The hESC
differentiation protocol described in the present study provides
access to human retinal cells at all major stages of retinal devel-
opment. The near absence of contamination from non-neural cell
types and the potential to enrich for discrete retinal cell types
further add to the possible clinical utility of these differentiating
cultures. The potential for iPS cells to generate multiple retinal cell
degenerative diseases and stimulate investigation into customized
stem cell therapies for patients afflicted by these disorders (34, 35).
In summary, we have shown that hESCs meet the criteria (1, 2)
to serve as a comprehensive in vitro model system for human
retinogenesis. Using an identical culture method, human iPS cells
On a broader level, this study supports a role for pluripotent stem
cells to test concepts in human developmental biology that were
previously extrapolated from animal models. In turn, this ability
could narrow the gap between our understanding of human devel-
opment and that of other mammalian species.
Maintenance of hESCs and Human iPS Cells. Pluripotent stem cells were
maintained as previously described for hESCs (15). Detailed protocols are
available in the SI Text.
Differentiation of hESCs and Human iPS Cells. The initial differentiation of
hESCs and human iPS cells toward an eye field fate was performed with
modifications to previously described protocols (15, 36). Thereafter, a chem-
ically-defined retinal differentiation medium was used to promote the step-
wise production of retina-specific cell types from free-floating neurospheres
(36). Detailed protocols are available in the SI Text.
RT-PCR. RT-PCR and qPCR experiments were performed as previously de-
scribed (36). More detailed methods, including primer sequences, can be
found in the SI Text as well as Table S1.
4% paraformaldehyde, and then immunostained as described (15). Detailed
procedures are provided in the SI Text as well as Table S2.
FACS. Staining and sorting of cells were performed as previously described
(15). Detailed procedures are provided in the SI Text.
Western Analysis. Western blots were performed as previously described (36).
Detailed procedures are provided in SI Text as well as Table S2.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS. We thank B. Hu, T. Lavaute, and M. Pankratz for
technical assistance, and the staff at WiCell for preparation of MEF. This work
was supported by National Institutes of Health Grants K08EY015138 (to
D.M.G.) and R01NS045926 (to S.C.Z.), the Foundation Fighting Blindness
(D.M.G.), the Walsh Consortium (D.M.G.), the Lincy Foundation (D.M.G.), and
a Retina Research Foundation Gamewell Professorship (to D.M.G.)
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