A Preclinical Safety Study of Human Embryonic Stem Cell-Derived Retinal Pigment Epithelial Cells for Macular Degeneration

John L. Mazzilli, Joshua D. Snook, Ken Simmons, Aleksey Y. Domozhirov, Charles A. Garcia, Rick A. Wetsel, Eva M. Zsigmond, Peter D. Westenskow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Purpose: Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common disease trending towards epidemic proportions and is a leading cause of irreversible vision loss in people over the age of 65. A pathomechanism of AMD is death and/or dysfunction of retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells; RPE loss invariably results in photoreceptor atrophy. Treatment options for AMD are very limited, and include vitamin supplements and lifestyle changes. An exciting potential therapy currently being tested in clinical trials is transplantation of stem cell-derived RPE. Methods: We developed a NIH-registered embryonic stem line (CR-4), and in this study set out to determine if CR4-RPE are tolerated in normal mice and in murine models of retinal degeneration by injecting a bolus of CR4-RPE cells in the subretinal space of immunosuppressed wild-type, Mer mutant (Merkd), and Elovl4 deficient mice. Results: Mice with CR-RPE grafts were monitored daily, were examined routinely using OCT, and histology was prepared and examined at terminal end-points. Based on the parameters of the study, none of the animals with CR-RPE grafts (n=36) experienced any obvious adverse reactions. Conclusions: We conclude that transplanted CR-4 hES-derived RPE cells are well tolerated in immunosuppressed healthy and dystrophic murine retinas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-69
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Ocular Pharmacology and Therapeutics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • cell therapy
  • macular degeneration
  • retinal pigment epithelium
  • stem cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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