Damage or loss of photoreceptor cells is one of main culprits of visual impairment in many retinal degenerative diseases. Pharmacological treatment and surgical intervention are traditionally used to treat these retinal diseases, but they are not curative. It has been increasingly recognized that Wharton's jelly mesenchymal stem cells may differentiate into several cell lineages from all three germ layers. However, the capacity of Wharton's jelly mesenchymal stem cells to differentiate into retinal progenitor cells remains undetermined.
A new study reported in Neural Regeneration Research (Vol. 8, No. 19, 2013) used serum-free neural stem cell-conditioned medium or neural stem cell-conditioned medium supplemented with Dkk-1 and LeftyA to induce neural differentiation from Wharton's jelly mesenchymal stem cells. Inverted microscopy showed that after induction, the spindle-shaped or fibroblast-like Wharton's jelly mesenchymal stem cells changed into bulbous cells with numerous processes. Immunofluorescent cytochemical staining and reverse-transcription PCR showed positive expression of retinal progenitor cell markers, Pax6 and Rx, as well as weakly down-regulated nestin expression.
These results demonstrate that Wharton's jelly mesenchymal stem cells are capable of differentiating into retinal progenitor cells in vitro, and may be used as seed cells for the clinical treatment of injury-induced visual diseases.
Hu Y, Liang J, Cui HP, Wang XM, Rong H, Shao B, Cui H. Neural Regen Res. 2013;8(19):1783-1792.