Adult human Müller glia cells are a highly efficient source of rod photoreceptors

Serena G. Giannelli, Gian Carlo Demontis, Grazia Pertile, Paolo Rama, Vania Broccoli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is growing evidence that Müller glia cells (MGCs) might act as regenerative elements in injured retinas of fishes and amniotes. However, their differentiation potential in humans is yet unknown. We isolated Müller glia from adult human retinas and propagated them in vitro revealing for the first time their ability to differentiate into rod photoreceptors. These results were also confirmed with mice retinas. Here, we describe conditions by which human MGCs adopt a rod photoreceptor commitment with a surprising efficiency as high as 54%. Functional characterization of Müller glia-derived photoreceptors by patch-clamp recordings revealed that their electrical properties are comparable to those of adult rods. Interestingly, our procedure allowed efficient derivation of MGC cultures starting from both injured and degenerating and postmortem human retinas. Human transplanted Müller glia-derived photoreceptors integrate and survive within immunodeficient mouse retinas. These data provide evidence that Müller glia retains an unpredicted plasticity and multipotent potential into adulthood, and it is therefore a promising source of novel therapeutic applications in retinal repair.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)344-356
Number of pages13
JournalStem Cells
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011


  • Adult stem cells
  • Müller glia
  • Photoreceptor
  • Regenerative medicine
  • Retina

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Molecular Medicine


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