Endothelial cells derived from patients with diabetic macular edema recapitulate clinical evaluations of anti-VEGF responsiveness through the Neuronal Pentraxin 2 pathway
Herein, we determine first the response to anti-VEGFs in a cohort of DME patients using spectral-domain optical coherence tomography scans obtained throughout the first year of treatment. We found that in 28% of eyes full clearance of fluid occurred at any time during the first year (“full responders”); in 66% fluid cleared only partly (“partial responders”); in 6% fluid remained unchanged (“non-responders”). To understand this differential response, we generated induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) from “full responders” and “non-responders” and from diabetic subjects with no DME and age-matched non-diabetic volunteers and differentiated them into endothelial cells (iPS-ECs). Monolayers of iPS-ECs derived from diabetics showed marked and prolonged increased permeability upon exposure to VEGF when compared with non-diabetic controls; the response was significantly exaggerated in iPS-ECs from “non-responders” when compared with “full responders”. Moreover, phosphorylation of key cellular proteins in response to VEGF, including VEGFR2, and gene expression profiles, such as Neuronal Pentraxin 2 (NPTX2) expression, differed between “full responders” and “non-responders”.
In the current study, iPS were used to predict patient response to anti-VEGF and identify key mechanisms underpinning the differential outcomes observed in the clinic. This approach has identified NPTX2 as playing a significant role in patient-linked responses and has potential as a new therapeutic target for DME.