Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, FL, USA.
There is considerable interest in transplanting stem cells or progenitors into the injured nervous system and enhancing their differentiation into mature, integrated, functional neurons. Little is known, however, about what intrinsic or extrinsic signals control the integration of differentiated neurons, either during development or in the adult. Here we ask whether purified, postmitotic, differentiated retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) directly isolated from rat retina or derived from in vitro-differentiated retinal progenitor cells can survive, migrate, extend neurites, and form morphologic synapses in a host retina, in vivo and ex vivo. We found that acutely purified primary and in vitro-differentiated RGCs survive transplantation and migrate into deeper retinal layers, including into their normal environment, the ganglion cell layer (GCL). Transplanted RGCs from a wide range of developmental ages, but not from adults, were capable of extending lengthy neurites in the normal and injured adult rat retina ex vivo and to a lesser degree after transplantation in vivo. We have also demonstrated that RGCs may be differentiated and purified from retinal precursor cultures and that they share many of the same cell biological properties as primary RGCs. We have established that progenitor-derived RGCs have similar capacity for integration as developing primary RGCs but appear to form a lower number of presynaptic punctae. This work provides insight for further understanding of the integration of developing RGCs into their normal environment and following injury.
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