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Nestin positive cells in adult human retina and in epiretinal membranes
  1. E J Mayer,
  2. E H Hughes,
  3. D A Carter,
  4. A D Dick
  1. University Division of Ophthalmology, University of Bristol, Bristol Eye Hospital, Lower Maudlin Street, Bristol BS1 2LX, UK
  1. Correspondence to: Professor Andrew Dick, University Division of Ophthalmology, University of Bristol, Bristol Eye Hospital, Lower Maudlin Street, Bristol BS1 2LX, UK; a.dick{at}


Background/aim: Nestin is an intermediate filament marker for neural progenitor cells. The authors aimed to identify nestin positive cells in adult human retina and within surgically removed epiretinal membranes.

Methods: Adult human retina and epiretinal membranes were studied. Tissue was fixed and processed for semithin sections or whole mount preparations for immunohistochemical detection of nestin and glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) expression.

Results: Nestin positive cells are most prominent at the ora serrata, possess fibrillary processes, small amounts of perinuclear cytoplasm, and are arranged radially within or superficially on the retina. In the posterior retina, speckled cytoplasmic nestin staining is seen around the nuclei of neurons. In the peripapillary retina most of the cells in the retinal ganglion cell layer are nestin positive. These cells appear to represent nestin positive neurons. Speckled cells are also seen in the myelinated portion of the optic nerve. In epiretinal membranes patches of elongated nestin positive cells were found. These cells were also positive for GFAP.

Conclusions: Some neurons and glia in the adult human retina are nestin positive. Their pattern in anterior retina suggests an analogy with the ciliary marginal zone found in many other species. The role of these cells in pathological responses to retinal disease is suggested by the presence of large numbers of ectopic nestin positive cells in epiretinal membranes. The authors hypothesise that nestin positive cells represent a population of progenitor cells from normal adult human retina that differentiate to make up retinal scar tissue.

  • nestin
  • progenitor cells
  • neurons
  • epiretinal membranes
  • glia
  • GFAP
  • retina
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