Electrophysiologic characterization of developing human embryonic stem cell-derived photoreceptor precursors

Revital Schick, Nairouz Farah, Amos Markus, Alon Korngreen, Yossi Mandel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


PURPOSE. Photoreceptor precursor cells (PRPs) differentiated from human embryonic stem cells can serve as a source for cell replacement therapy aimed at vision restoration in patients suffering from degenerative diseases of the outer retina, such as retinitis pigmentosa and AMD. In this work, we studied the electrophysiologic maturation of PRPs throughout the differentiation process. METHODS. Human embryonic stem cells were differentiated into PRPs and whole-cell recordings were performed for electrophysiologic characterization at days 0, 30, 60, and 90 along with quantitative PCR analysis to characterize the expression level of various ion channels, which shape the electrophysiologic response. Finally, to characterize the electrically induced calcium currents, we employed calcium imaging (rhod4) to visualize intracellular calcium dynamics in response to electrical activation. RESULTS. Our results revealed an early and steady presence (approximately 100% of responsive cells) of the delayed potassium rectifier current. In contrast, the percentage of cells exhibiting voltage-gated sodium currents increased with maturation (from 0% to almost 90% of responsive cells at 90 days). Moreover, calcium imaging revealed the presence of voltage-gated calcium currents, which play a major role in vision formation. These results were further supported by quantitative PCR analysis, which revealed a significant and continuous (3- to 50-fold) increase in the expression of various voltagegated channels concomitantly with the increase in the expression of the photoreceptor marker CRX. CONCLUSIONS. These results can shed light on the electrophysiologic maturation of neurons in general and PRP in particular and can form the basis for devising and optimizing cell replacement-based vision restoration strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number44
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2020


  • Cell replacement therapy
  • Photoreceptor precursors
  • Stem cells
  • Voltage sensitive ion channels

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Ophthalmology


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