Authors: Du Y, Roh DS, Funderburgh ML, Mann MM, Marra KG, Rubin JP, Li X, Funderburgh JL.
Title: Adipose-derived stem cells differentiate to keratocytes in vitro.
Summary: Adipose-derived stem cells (ADSC) are an abundant population of adult stem cells with the potential to differentiate into several specialized tissue types, including neural and neural crest-derived cells. This study sought to determine if ADSC express keratocyte-specific phenotypic markers when cultured under conditions inducing differentiation of corneal stromal stem cells to keratocytes.
METHODS: Human subcutaneous adipose tissue was obtained by lipoaspiration. ADSC were isolated by collagenase digestion and differential centrifugation. Side population cells in ADSC were demonstrated using fluorescence-activated cell sorting after staining with Hoechst 33342. Differentiation to keratocyte phenotype was induced in fibrin gels or as pellet cultures with serum-free or reduced-serum media containing ascorbate. Keratocyte-specific gene expression was characterized using western blotting, quantitative RT-PCR, and immunostaining.
RESULTS: ADSC contained a side population and exhibited differentiation to adipocytes and chondrocytes indicating adult stem-cell potential. Culture of ADSC in fibrin gels or as pellets in reduced-serum medium with ascorbate and insulin induced expression of keratocan, keratan sulfate, and aldehyde dehydrogenase 3 family, member A1 (ALDH3A1), products highly expressed by differentiated keratocytes. Expression of differentiation markers was quantitatively similar to corneal stromal stem cells and occurred in both serum-free and serum containing media.
CONCLUSIONS: ADSC cultured under keratocyte-differentiation conditions express corneal-specific matrix components. Expression of these unique keratocyte products suggests that ADSC can adopt a keratocyte phenotype and therefore have potential for use in corneal cell therapy and tissue engineering.