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Indiana University-led study shows human induced pluripotent stem cells improve visual acuity, vascular health

March 17, 2022

Researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine, in collaboration with the University of Alabama at Birmingham and five other institutions, are investigating novel regenerative medicine approaches to better manage vascular health complications from type 2 diabetes that could someday support blood vessel repair in the eye among diabetic patients with early retinal vascular dysfunction. These research strategies include identifying and using new methods to differentiate or mature human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) into the specific mesoderm subset of cells that display vascular reparative properties.

In the multi-site, early phase study recently published in Science Advances, investigators genetically reprogrammed diabetic and non-diabetic peripheral blood cells into hiPSCs and matured the cells into special blood vessel reparative cells. Upon injection into animal models with type 2 diabetic murine (T2D) retinal dysfunction, results showed significant improvement in visual acuity and electroretinograms with restoration of vascular perfusion. They hypothesized hiPSC-derived vascular reparative cells may serve as a source of endothelial precursors that will display in vivo vessel reparative properties in these diabetic subjects.

The researchers converted hiPSC into a specific mesoderm subset that was enriched to generate endothelial cells with vessel reparative properties similar to endothelial colony forming cells (ECFC). Endothelial cells are cells found in the inner lining of blood vessels, lymph vessels and the heart and are a major component in regulating vascular function and inflammatory reactions. Endothelial cells control blood flow and regulate the transfer of proteins from blood into tissues.