Systemic Injection of RPE65-Programmed Bone Marrow-Derived Cells Prevents Progression of Chronic Retinal Degeneration

Academic Article


  • Bone marrow stem and progenitor cells can differentiate into a range of non-hematopoietic cell types, including retinal pigment epithelium (RPE)-like cells. In this study, we programmed bone marrow-derived cells (BMDCs) ex vivo by inserting a stable RPE65 transgene using a lentiviral vector. We tested the efficacy of systemically administered RPE65-programmed BMDCs to prevent visual loss in the superoxide dismutase 2 knockdown (Sod2 KD) mouse model of age-related macular degeneration. Here, we present evidence that these RPE65-programmed BMDCs are recruited to the subretinal space, where they repopulate the RPE layer, preserve the photoreceptor layer, retain the thickness of the neural retina, reduce lipofuscin granule formation, and suppress microgliosis. Importantly, electroretinography and optokinetic response tests confirmed that visual function was significantly improved. Mice treated with non-modified BMDCs or BMDCs pre-programmed with LacZ did not exhibit significant improvement in visual deficit. RPE65-BMDC administration was most effective in early disease, when visual function and retinal morphology returned to near normal, and less effective in late-stage disease. This experimental paradigm offers a minimally invasive cellular therapy that can be given systemically overcoming the need for invasive ocular surgery and offering the potential to arrest progression in early AMD and other RPE-based diseases.
  • Authors

    Published In

  • Molecular Therapy  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Qi X; Pay SL; Yan Y; Thomas J; Lewin AS; Chang LJ; Grant MB; Boulton ME
  • Start Page

  • 917
  • End Page

  • 927
  • Volume

  • 25
  • Issue

  • 4