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Photoreceptor loss causes irreversible blindness in many retinal diseases. The identification of suitable donor cell populations is of considerable interest because of their potential use to replace the photoreceptors lost in disease. Stem or progenitor cells that give rise to neurons and glia have been identified in several regions of the brain, including the embryonic retina and the ciliary epithelium of the adult eye, raising the possibility of autologous transplantation. However, there has been little systematic investigation into precisely which regions of the large mammalian adult eye give rise to such cells. Here, we show for the first time using the porcine eye the presence of progenitor cells in additional regions of the adult eye, including the pars plana and iris, regions that, in the human, are readily accessible during routine eye surgery. When cultured in the presence of growth factors, these cells proliferate to form neurospheres comprised of cells expressing retinal progenitor markers. Using an adherent monolayer culture system, these cells could be readily expanded to increase their number more than 1 million-fold and maintain a progenitor phenotype. When grown on the substrate laminin in the presence of serum, cells derived from both spheres and monolayer cultures differentiated into neurons and glia. These results suggest that a population of cells derived from the adult iris, pars plana, and ciliary body of a large mammalian species, the pig, has progenitor properties and neurogenic potential, thereby providing novel sources of donor cells for transplantation studies. Disclosure of potential conflicts of interest is found at the end of this article.

Original publication




Journal article


Stem Cells

Publication Date





2430 - 2438


Adult Stem Cells, Animals, Biomarkers, Cell Culture Techniques, Cell Differentiation, Cell Separation, Cells, Cultured, Ciliary Body, Culture Media, Epidermal Growth Factor, Fibroblast Growth Factor 2, Iris, Laminin, Male, Multipotent Stem Cells, Neuroglia, Neurons, Spheroids, Cellular, Sus scrofa