Scientists have achieved a major breakthrough in the treatment of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by utilizing nanotechnology to develop a 3D scaffold that supports the growth of healthy retinal cells. This groundbreaking advancement has the potential to revolutionize the way AMD, a leading cause of blindness worldwide, is treated.
The researchers used electrospinning technology to create the scaffold, which acts as a support structure for retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells. These cells play a crucial role in maintaining vision and can deteriorate when damaged. By growing viable RPE cells on the scaffold, scientists hope to develop ocular tissue that can be used for transplantation.
This is the first time that electrospinning has been utilized to create a scaffold for RPE cell growth, making it a significant step forward in the field of nanotechnology. When the scaffold is treated with the steroid fluocinolone acetonide, which has anti-inflammatory properties, the resilience and growth of the RPE cells are enhanced. This finding could potentially further progress in the development of transplantable ocular tissue.
AMD is a prevalent condition linked to vision loss, especially in the aging population. It is projected that by 2050, 77 million people in Europe alone will be affected by some form of AMD. The disease is caused by changes in the Bruch’s membrane, which supports the RPE cells, as well as the breakdown of the adjacent choriocapillaris. In Western populations, the accumulation of lipid deposits called drusen and subsequent degeneration of the RPE, choriocapillaris, and outer retina are common causes of sight deterioration.
The replacement of RPE cells through transplantation is one of the potential treatments for AMD. Scientists have been working on finding efficient methods to successfully transplant these cells into the eye. The creation of the 3D scaffold using nanofiber technology represents a promising solution. Professor Barbara Pierscionek, the lead author of the study, explained that the scaffold can serve as a substitute for the Bruch’s membrane, offering a synthetic, non-toxic, and biostable support structure for RPE cells.
This groundbreaking research demonstrates that nanofiber scaffolds, when treated with fluocinolone acetonide, can enhance the growth, differentiation, and functionality of RPE cells. The use of a 3D environment provided by the scaffolds has proved to be biologically relevant and beneficial for cell growth. The potential applications of this breakthrough are enormous, as it could potentially benefit millions of people around the world by addressing the underlying causes of eye diseases like AMD.
Source: “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 and Barbara K. Pierscionek, 8 July 2023, Materials & Design. (Source not provided)