The use of human embryonic stem cell (hESC)-derived Retinal Pigment Epithelium (RPE) transplants has advanced dramatically in different forms for clinical application in macular degeneration. This review focuses on the first generation of hESC-RPE cell line, named as “MA09-hRPE” by Astellas Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AIRM), and its therapeutic application in human, which evaluated the safety and efficacy of MA09-hRPE cell line transplanted in patients with macular degeneration. This project marks the first milestone in overcoming ethical hurdles and oncogenic safety concerns associated with the use of an embryonic stem cell-derived line. Through in-depth, evidence-based analysis of the MA09-hRPE cell line, along with other hESC-RPE cell lines, this review aims to draw attention to the key technical challenges pertinent to the generation of a biologically competent hESC-RPE cell line and distill the four key prognostic factors residing in the host retina, which concurrently determine the outcomes of clinical efficacy and visual benefits. Given that the technology is still at its infancy for human use, a new clinical regulatory path could aid in cell line validation through small cohort, adaptive clinical trials to accelerate product development toward commercialization. These strategic insights will be invaluable to help both academia and industry, collaboratively shorten the steep learning curve, and reduce large development expenditures spent on unnecessary lengthy clinical trials.
The author focuses on the first generation of hESC-RPE cell line, named as “MA09-hRPE” by Astellas Institute of Regenerative Medicine, and its therapeutic application in humans, which evaluated the safety and efficacy a of MA09-hRPE cell line transplanted in patients with macular degeneration.