Scientists have made significant progress in the use of nanotechnology to develop a 3D scaffold that promotes the growth of healthy retinal cells, potentially revolutionizing the treatment of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness worldwide.
The breakthrough involves the application of electrospinning technology to create a scaffold that enhances the resilience and growth of retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells, which are crucial for maintaining vision. These RPE cells, when damaged, can cause vision deterioration.
Led by Professor Barbara Pierscionek from Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), the team successfully developed a scaffold using electrospinning, a method that had not previously been used in this context. They treated the scaffold with the anti-inflammatory steroid fluocinolone acetonide, which further boosted the resilience and growth of the RPE cells. The findings are significant for the potential development of ocular tissue for transplantation to restore vision.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a prevalent vision problem that is expected to affect 77 million Europeans by 2050. The condition is characterized by changes in the Bruch’s membrane and the breakdown of the choriocapillaris, both of which support the RPE cells.
The most common cause of sight deterioration in Western populations is the accumulation of lipid deposits known as drusen, which leads to the degeneration of the RPE cells, choriocapillaris, and outer retina. In contrast, AMD in the developing world is often caused by abnormal blood vessel growth in the choroid, leading to hemorrhaging, RPE or retinal detachment, and scar formation.
The replacement of RPE cells is a promising therapeutic option for treating AMD. Scientists have been exploring efficient methods for transplanting these cells into the eye. The use of nanofibre scaffolds treated with fluocinolone acetonide has shown remarkable potential in supporting the growth, differentiation, and functionality of RPE cells in a 3D environment.
This breakthrough represents a significant step forward in the development of a synthetic, non-toxic, and biostable substitute for Bruch’s membrane, addressing pathological changes associated with AMD. It holds great promise for improving the lives of millions of people worldwide affected by vision impairment.
– “Retinal pigment epithelial cells can be cultured on fluocinolone acetonide treated nanofibrous scaffold” by Biola F. Egbowon, Enzo Fornari, Joseph M. Pally, Alan J. Hargreaves, Bob Stevens, T. Martin McGinnity, Barbara K. Pierscionek (Materials & Design)