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D. G. Harkin, K. A. George, A. M. A. Shadforth, S. Cheng, A. S. Kwan, T. V. Chirila; Development of an Ultra-Thin Fibroin Membrane for RPE Cell Transplantation. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2010;51(13):5248.
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One of the challenges associated with cell-based therapies for repairing the retina is the development of suitable materials on which to grow and transplant retinal cells. Using the ARPE-19 cell line, we have previously demonstrated the feasibility of growing RPE-derived cells on membranes prepared from the silk protein fibroin. The present study was aimed at developing a porous, ultra-thin fibroin membrane that might better support development of apical-basal polarity in culture, and to extend this work to primary cultures of human RPE cells.
Ultra-thin fibroin membranes were prepared using a highly polished casting table coated with Topas® (a cyclic olefin copolymer) and a 1:0.03 aqueous solution of fibroin and PEO (Mv 900 000 g/mol). Following drying, the membranes were water annealed to make them water-stable, washed in water to remove PEO, sterilised by treatment with 95% ethanol, and washed extensively in saline. Primary cultures containing human RPE cells were established from donor posterior eye cups and maintained in DMEM/F12 medium supplemented with 10% fetal bovine serum and antibiotics. First passage cultures were seeded onto fibroin membranes pre-coated with vitronectin and grown for 6 weeks in medium supplemented with 1% serum. Comparative cultures were established on porous 1.0 µm pore PET membrane (Millipore) and using ARPE-19 cells.
The fibroin membranes displayed an average thickness of 3 µm and contained numerous dimples/pore-like structures of up to 3-5 µm in diameter. The primary cultures predominantly contained pigmented epithelial cells, but mesenchymal cells (presumed fibroblasts) were also often present. Passaged cultures appeared to attach equally well to either fibroin or PET membranes. Over time cells on either material adopted a more cobblestoned morphology.
Progress has been made towards developing a porous ultra-thin fibroin membrane that supports cultivation of RPE cells. Further studies are required to determine the degree of membrane permeability and RPE polarity.
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