Background: The generation of functional human epidermal melanocytes (HEM) from stem cells provides an unprecedented source for cell-based therapy in vitiligo. Despite the important efforts exerted to obtain melanin-producing cells from stem cells, pre-clinical results still lack the safety and scalability characteristics essential for their translational application. Methods: Here, we report a rapid and efficient protocol based on defined culture conditions capable of differentiating adult adipose-derived stem cells (ADSC) to scalable amounts of proliferative melanocyte precursors (PreMel) within 30 days. PreMel were characterized in vitro through qPCR, Western blot, flow cytometry, biochemical assays, and in vivo assays in immunocompromised mice (NOD.Cg-Prkdcscid Il2rgtm1Wjl/SzJ, or NSG). Results: After 30 days of differentiation, the stem cell-derived PreMel were defined as CD105neg CD73low according to immunophenotypic changes in comparison with parental stem cell markers. In addition, expression of microphthalmia-associated transcription factor (MITF), active tyrosinase (TYR), and the terminal differentiation-involved premelanosome protein (PMEL) were detected. Furthermore, PreMel had the potential to synthesize melanin and package it into melanosomes both in vitro and in vivo in NSG mice skin. Conclusions: This study proposes a rapid and scalable protocol for the generation of proliferative melanocyte precursors (PreMel) from ADSC. These PreMel display the essential functional characteristics of bona fide HEM, opening a new path for an autologous cellular therapy for vitiligo patients.
- Stem cells