The discovery of human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC), which can differentiate into many different cell lines within the human body, has changed the trajectory of clinical research. A study recently published in Cell Reports provides a better understanding of their utility for ocular research in particular.1

In a lab setting, investigators in Japan grew hiPSC cells on various forms of ocular laminin, a protein that is part of the matrix that fills the space outside of cells. They found they could induce the hiPSCs to differentiate into retinal, corneal and neural crest cells, depending on the type of laminin used. The cultured cells grew with mobilities, densities and tendencies to interact that corresponded to the cells from the different parts of the eye where the same laminin isoform predominated, the study said.1

The findings come on the heels of the team’s previous research that showed exposing hiPSCs to an isoform of laminin created cultured cell colonies arranged as four concentric zones—each of which exhibited characteristics specific to a particular anatomical part of the eye.

“Now that we can use different laminins to program stem cells to become particular cells found in different parts of the eye, we can harvest and apply them in treatments for a range of ocular diseases,” coauthor Kohji Nishida said in a press release. “This could be an extremely useful tool in the field of ophthalmology.”2

1. Shibata S, Hayashi R, Okubo T, et al. Selective laminin-directed differentiation of human induced pluripotent stem cells into distinct ocular lineages. Cell Reports. 2018;25(6):1668.

2.  Eye-opening study differentiates iPS cells into various ocular lineages. Osaka University. December 5, 2018. Accessed January 17, 2019.