Method for Generating Human Retinal Neurons and Photoreceptors from Embryonic Stem Cells

Introduction The degeneration of neurons and photoreceptors in the retina occur in a number of disorders for which there are currently few therapies, including retinitis pigmentosa, age-related macular degeneration, and glaucoma. Although retinal regeneration is robust in lower vertebrates, regeneration does not occur in the adult mammalian retina. The repair of the retina with replacement cells derived from human embryonic stem cells could thus provide the basis for new approaches for treating a wide variety of retinal degenerations. Technology description Dr Thomas Reh’s laboratory has developed methods for deriving retinal progenitor cells from human embryonic stem cells. Human embryonic cells can be directed to a retinal progenitor identity with 80% efficiency using appropriate culture conditions. The retinal progenitor cells are able to integrate with retinas from a mouse model of retinal degeneration and increase in their expression of photoreceptor-specific markers. Thus, human embryonic stem cells may provide an excellent source of new neurons and photoreceptors for retinal repair. Business Opportunity An estimated 100,000 people in the U.S. have retinitis pigmentosa, mainly caused by mutated genes inherited from one or both parents. Age-related macular degeneration is estimated to be present in over 9% of the population 52 years and older and in 33% of the population 75 years and older. Glaucoma is associated with chronically high intraocular pressure and approximately 2 million people in the US are currently being treated. In the US approximately 100,000 people are blinded each year by glaucoma. Intellectual Property Position There are U.S. and international patents pending on this technology. US20070196919: Method of generating human retinal progenitors from embryonic stem cells Related Publication(s)
PNAS 2006 August 22; 103 (34): 12769-12774

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