Long-term expansion of primary equine keratinocytes that maintain the ability to differentiate into stratified epidermis
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BACKGROUND: Skin injuries in horses frequently lead to chronic wounds that lack a keratinocyte cover essential for healing. The limited proliferation of equine keratinocytes using current protocols has limited their use for regenerative medicine. Previously, equine induced pluripotent stem cells (eiPSCs) have been produced, and eiPSCs could be differentiated into equine keratinocytes suitable for stem cell-based skin constructs. However, the procedure is technically challenging and time-consuming. The present study was designed to evaluate whether conditional reprogramming (CR) could expand primary equine keratinocytes rapidly in an undifferentiated state but retain their ability to differentiate normally and form stratified epithelium. METHODS: Conditional reprogramming was used to isolate and propagate two equine keratinocyte cultures. PCR and FISH were employed to evaluate the equine origin of the cells and karyotyping to perform a chromosomal count. FACS analysis and immunofluorescence were used to determine the purity of equine keratinocytes and their proliferative state. Three-dimensional air-liquid interphase method was used to test the ability of cells to differentiate and form stratified squamous epithelium. RESULTS: Conditional reprogramming was an efficient method to isolate and propagate two equine keratinocyte cultures. Cells were propagated at the rate of 2.39 days/doubling for more than 40 population doublings. A feeder-free culture method was also developed for long-term expansion. Rock-inhibitor is critical for both feeder and feeder-free conditions and for maintaining the proliferating cells in a stem-like state. PCR and FISH validated equine-specific markers in the cultures. Karyotyping showed normal equine 64, XY chromosomes. FACS using pan-cytokeratin antibodies showed a pure population of keratinocytes. When ROCK inhibitor was withdrawn and the cells were transferred to a three-dimensional air-liquid culture, they formed a well-differentiated stratified squamous epithelium, which was positive for terminal differentiation markers. CONCLUSIONS: Our results prove that conditional reprogramming is the first method that allows for the rapid and continued in vitro propagation of primary equine keratinocytes. These unlimited supplies of autologous cells could be used to generate transplants without the risk of immune rejection. This offers the opportunity for treating recalcitrant horse wounds using autologous transplantation.
author list (cited authors)
Alkhilaiwi, F., Wang, L., Zhou, D., Raudsepp, T., Ghosh, S., Paul, S., ... Yuan, H.