Ultrathin Polyimide Membrane as Cell Carrier for Subretinal Transplantation of Human Embryonic Stem Cell Derived Retinal Pigment Epithelium
In this study, we investigated the suitability of ultrathin and porous polyimide (PI) membrane as a carrier for subretinal transplantation of human embryonic stem cell (hESC) -derived retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells in rabbits. The in vivo effects of hESC-RPE cells were analyzed by subretinal suspension injection into Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) rats. Rat eyes were analyzed with electroretinography (ERG) and histology. After analyzing the surface and permeability properties of PI, subretinal PI membrane transplantations with and without hESC-RPE were performed in rabbits. The rabbits were followed for three months and eyes analyzed with fundus photography, ERG, optical coherence tomography (OCT), and histology. Animals were immunosuppressed with cyclosporine the entire follow-up time. In dystrophic RCS rats, ERG and outer nuclear layer (ONL) thickness showed some rescue after hESC-RPE injection. Cells positive for human antigen were found in clusters under the retina 41 days post-injection but not anymore after 105 days. In rabbits, OCT showed good placement of the PI. However, there was loss of pigmentation on the hESC-RPE-PI over time. In the eyes with PI alone, no obvious signs of inflammation or retinal atrophy were observed. In the presence of hESC-RPE, mononuclear cell infiltration and retinal atrophy were observed around the membranes. The porous ultrathin PI membrane was well-tolerated in the subretinal space and is a promising scaffold for RPE transplantation. However, the rejection of the transplanted cells seems to be a major problem and the given immunosuppression was insufficient for reduction of xenograft induced inflammation.