Direct conversion of human amniotic cells into endothelial cells without transitioning through a pluripotent state
Embryonic Stem Cells
Endothelial cells (ECs) have essential roles in organ development and regeneration, and therefore they could be used for regenerative therapies. However, generation of abundant functional endothelium from pluripotent stem cells has been difficult because ECs generated by many existing strategies have limited proliferative potential and display vascular instability. The latter difficulty is of particular importance because cells that lose their identity over time could be unsuitable for therapeutic use. Here, we describe a 3-week platform for directly converting human mid-gestation lineage-committed amniotic fluid-derived cells (ACs) into a stable and expandable population of vascular ECs (rAC-VECs) without using pluripotency factors. By transient expression of the ETS transcription factor ETV2 for 2 weeks and constitutive expression the ETS transcription factors FLI1 and ERG1, concomitant with TGF-β inhibition for 3 weeks, epithelial and mesenchymal ACs are converted, with high efficiency, into functional rAC-VECs. These rAC-VECs maintain their vascular repertoire and morphology over numerous passages in vitro, and they form functional vessels when implanted in vivo. rAC-VECs can be detected in recipient mice months after implantation. Thus, rAC-VECs can be used to establish a cellular platform to uncover the molecular determinants of vascular development and heterogeneity and potentially represent ideal ECs for the treatment of regenerative disorders.