PurposeHuman pluripotent stem cell (hPSC)-derived retinal organoids are a platform for investigating retinal development, pathophysiology, and cellular therapies. In contrast to histologic analysis in which multiple specimens fixed at different times are used to reconstruct developmental processes, repeated analysis of the same living organoids provides a more direct means to characterize changes. New live imaging modalities can provide insights into retinal organoid structure and metabolic function during in vitro growth. This study employed live tissue imaging to characterize retinal organoid development, including metabolic changes accompanying photoreceptor differentiation.
MethodsLive hPSC-derived retinal organoids at different developmental stages were examined for microanatomic organization and metabolic function by phase contrast microscopy, optical coherence tomography (OCT), fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM), and hyperspectral imaging (HSpec). Features were compared to those revealed by histologic staining, immunostaining, and microcomputed tomography (micro-CT) of fixed organoid tissue.
ResultsWe used FLIM and HSpec to detect changes in metabolic activity as organoids differentiated into organized lamellae. FLIM detected increased glycolytic activity and HSpec detected retinol and retinoic acid accumulation in the organoid outer layer, coinciding with photoreceptor genesis. OCT enabled imaging of lamellae formed during organoid maturation. Micro-CT revealed three-dimensional structure, but failed to detect lamellae.
ConclusionsLive imaging modalities facilitate real-time and nondestructive imaging of retinal organoids as they organize into lamellar structures. FLIM and HSpec enable rapid detection of lamellar structure and photoreceptor metabolism. Live imaging techniques may aid in the continuous evaluation of retinal organoid development in diverse experimental and cell therapy settings.