The advent of human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) provided a means for avoiding ethical concerns associated with the use of cells isolated from human embryos. The number of labs now using iPSCs to generate photoreceptor, retinal pigmented epithelial (RPE), and—more recently—choroidal endothelial cells has grown exponentially. However, for autologous cell replacement to be effective, manufacturing strategies will need to change. Many tasks carried out by hand will need simplifying and automating. In this issue of the JCI, Schaub and colleagues combined quantitative bright-field microscopy and artificial intelligence (deep neural networks and traditional machine learning) to noninvasively monitor iPSC-derived graft maturation, predict donor cell identity, and evaluate graft function prior to transplantation. This approach allowed the authors to preemptively identify and remove abnormal grafts. Notably, the method is (a) transferable, (b) cost and time effective, (c) high throughput, and (d) useful for primary product validation.
Budd A. Tucker, Robert F. Mullins, Edwin M. Stone
Schematic depiction of a hypothetical clinical manufacturing pipeline for an autologous retinal cell graft .