Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics

, Volume 29, Issue 8, pp 735–744 | Cite as

Derivation, culture and retinal pigment epithelial differentiation of human embryonic stem cells using human fibroblast feeder cells

  • Yun-Shan Zhang
  • Zhen-Yu Lu
  • Yang Yu
  • Xiao-Rong Li
  • Wen-Bo Li
  • Yi-Na Wang
  • Ying Geng
Stem Cell Biology



Retinal pigment epithelium cells derived from human embryonic stem cells (ESCs) could be useful for restoring retinal function in age-related macular degeneration. However the use of non-human feeder cells to support the growth of ESCs for clinical applications raises the concern of possible contamination because of direct contact between animal and human cells.


In this study, we produced human ESCs using human fibroblast feeder layers isolated from foreskin and abdominal tissues. Using this system, human ESCs differentiated into retinal pigment epithelium cells in differentiation medium.


Seven human ESC lines were established from 18 blastocysts. These human ESCs showed normal morphology, expressed all expected cell surface markers, had the ability to form embryoid bodies upon culture in vitro and teratomas after injection into SCID mice, and differentiated further into derivatives of all three germ layers. Under conditions of committed differentiation, these human ESCs could differentiate into retinal pigment epithelium cells after 2 months in culture.


The results of this study demonstrated that human foreskin/abdominal fibroblasts have the potential to support the derivation and long-term culture of human ESCs, which can then be used to generate retinal pigment epithelium cells with characteristic morphology and molecular markers. This technique avoids the concerns of contamination from animal feeder layers during human ESC derivation, culture and differentiation, and will thus facilitate the development of retinal pigment epithelium cell transplantation therapy.


Human embryonic stem cell Human foreskin fibroblast feeder layer Human abdominal fibroblast feeder layer Retinal pigment epithelium differentiation 



This work was supported in part by the National Natural Science Foundation of China of Young Scholars (No. 81100404) to L.Z.Y, by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 30973255) to L.X.R, and by the Specialized Research Fund for the Doctoral Program of Higher Education of China (Grant No. 20110001120008) to Y.Y.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Reproductive MedicineTianjin Central Hospital of Obstetrics and GynecologyTianjinChina
  2. 2.Union Stem Cell & Gene Engineering Co., Ltd.TianjinChina
  3. 3.Center for Reproductive Medicine, Department of Obstetrics and GynecologyPeking University Third HospitalBeijingChina
  4. 4.Tianjin Medical University Eye CentreTianjinChina

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