Human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) represent a promising source of patient-specific cells for disease modeling, drug screens and cellular therapies. However, the inability to derive engraftable human hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells has limited their use for modeling of hematological diseases. We previously reported a strategy to respecify lineage-restricted CD34+hematopoietic precursors derived from iPSCs into multilineage progenitors that can be expanded in vitro and transplanted in vivo. Five transcription factors, HOXA9, ERG, RORA, SOX4 and MYB, enable expansion and maintenance of primitive CD34+CD38- cells, and allow their differentiation upon transgene silencing. Respecified iPSC-derived hematopoietic progenitors give rise to robust short-term engraftment with myeloid and erythroid lineages. Notably, the erythrocytes undergo definitive maturation and hemoglobin switching to express β-globin in vivo. This system presents a useful platform for modeling hematological disorders due to its capacity to generate large numbers of engraftable disease cells for in vitro and in vivo screens.

Congenital anemias, such as Diamond Blackfan anemia (DBA) represent a defined system for understanding red blood cell development and more common idiopathic anemias. To model this disease in vitro, we combined factor-induced respecification with stepwise erythroid maturation. We show that respecified iPSCs from DBA patients recapitulate the defect in erythroid differentiation. Consistent with clinical observations, early erythroblasts show impaired proliferation marked by increased apoptosis and p21 expression, while terminal maturation is unaffected. Interestingly, while early passage iPSC lines display a profound erythroid defect, continuous passage restores a near-normal capacity for erythroid differentiation. Furthermore, transplanted DBA iPSC-derived progenitors give rise to normal myeloid, but fail to generate erythroid, engraftment. This validates this system as a powerful tool for disease modeling and drug discovery. Mice transplanted with DBA iPSC-derived progenitors treated with conventional anemia drugs, such as dexamethasone, show a modest improvement in human erythroid output suggesting the need for novel treatments. Using high-throughput chemical screens, we have identified several signaling pathways which may be attractive therapeutic targets in DBA and other anemias. Further characterization is currently underway to better target defective erythropoiesis and dissect underlying disease mechanisms.


Zon:FATE Therapeutics, Inc: Equity Ownership, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees, Other; Scholar Rock: Equity Ownership, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees, Other; Stemgent: Equity Ownership, Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.

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