Author(s): Sinha D, Phillips J, Joseph Phillips M, Gamm DM. Mimicking retinal development and disease with human pluripotent stem cells. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2016 Apr 1;57(5):ORSFf1-9. doi: 10.1167/iovs.15-18160. Review. PMID 27116663
As applications of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) continue to be refined and pursued, it is important to keep in mind that the strengths and weaknesses of this technology lie with its developmental origins. The remarkable capacity of differentiating hPSCs to recapitulate cell and tissue genesis has provided a model system to study stages of human development that were not previously amenable to investigation and experimentation. Furthermore, demonstration of developmentally appropriate, stepwise differentiation of hPSCs to specific cell types offers support for their authenticity and their suitability for use in disease modeling and cell replacement therapies. However, limitations to farming cells and tissues in an artificial culture environment, as well as the length of time required for most cells to mature, are some of the many issues to consider before using hPSCs to study or treat a particular disease. Given the overarching need to understand and modulate the dynamics of lineage-specific differentiation in stem cell cultures, this review will first examine the capacity of hPSCs to serve as models of retinal development. Thereafter, we will discuss efforts to model retinal disorders with hPSCs and present challenges that face investigators who aspire to use such systems to study disease pathophysiology and/or screen for therapeutics. We also refer readers to recent publications that provide additional insight and details on these rapidly evolving topics.