Retinal dystrophies often lead to blindness. Developing therapeutic interventions to restore vision is therefore of paramount importance. Here we demonstrate the ability of pluripotent stem cell-derived cone precursors to engraft and restore light responses in the Pde6brd1 mouse, an end-stage photoreceptor degeneration model. Up to 1.5% of precursors integrated into the host retina, differentiated into cones and formed synapses with bipolar cells. Half of the transplanted mice exhibited visual behaviour and 33% showed binocular light sensitivity. The majority of ganglion cells exhibited contrast-sensitive ON, OFF or ON-OFF light responses and even motion sensitivity. Many cells also exhibited unusual responses (e.g. light-induced suppression), presumably reflecting remodelling of the neural retina. Our data indicate that despite relatively low engraftment yield, engrafted pluripotent stem cell-derived cone precursors can elicit light responsiveness even at advanced degeneration stages. Further work is needed to improve engraftment yield and counteract retinal remodelling to achieve useful clinical applications.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience