Immunological aspects of RPE cell transplantation.Prog Retin Eye Res. 2021 Jan 19 [Online ahead of print]PR
Retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells have several functions, including support of the neural retina and choroid in the eye and immunosuppression. Cultured human RPE cells directly suppress inflammatory immune cells. For instance, they directly suppress the activation of T cells in vitro. In contrast, transplanted allogeneic human RPE cells are rejected by bystander immune cells such as T cells in vivo. Recently, human embryonic stem cell-derived RPE cells have been used in several clinical trials, and human induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-RPE cells have also been tested in our clinical study in patients with retinal degeneration. Major safety concerns after stem cell-based transplantation surgery include hyper-proliferation, tumorigenicity, or ectopic tissue formation, but these events have currently not been seen in any of these patients. However, if RPE cells are allogeneic, there are concerns about immune rejection issues that have been raised in previous clinical trials. We therefore performed a preclinical study of allogeneic iPSC-RPE cell transplantation in animal rejection models. We then conducted autogenic or allogeneic iPSC-RPE cell transplantation in clinical studies of patients with age-related macular degeneration. In this review, we focus on immunological studies of RPE cells, including iPSC-derived cells. iPSC-RPE cells have unique inflammatory (immunosuppressive and immunogenic) characteristics like primary cultured RPE cells. The purpose of this review is to summarize the current findings obtained from preclinical (basic research) and clinical studies in iPSC-RPE cell transplantation, especially the immunological aspects.