A Novel Approach for Subretinal Implantation of Ultrathin Substrates Containing Stem Cell-Derived Retinal Pigment Epithelium Monolayer
Objective: To evaluate the feasibility of a new technique for the implantation of ultrathin substrates containing stem cell-derived retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells into the subretinal space of retina-degenerate Royal College of Surgeon (RCS) rats. Methods: A platform device was used for the implantation of 4-µm-thick parylene substrates containing a monolayer of human embryonic stem cell-derived RPE (hESC-RPE). Normal Copenhagen rats (n = 6) and RCS rats (n = 5) were used for the study. Spectral-domain optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT) scanning and histological examinations were performed to confirm placement location of the implant. hESC-RPE cells attached to the substrate before and after implantation were evaluated using standard cell counting techniques. Results: SD-OCT scanning and histological examination revealed that the substrates were precisely placed in the rat's subretinal space. The hESC-RPE cell monolayer that covered the surface of the substrate was found to be intact after implantation. Cell counting data showed that less than 2% of cells were lost from the substrate due to the implantation procedure (preimplantation count 2,792 ± 74.09 cells versus postimplantation count 2,741 ± 62.08 cells). Detailed microscopic examination suggested that the cell loss occurred mostly along the edges of the implant. Conclusion: With the help of this platform device, it is possible to implant ultrathin substrates containing an RPE monolayer into the rat's subretinal space. This technique can be a useful approach for stem cell-based tissue bioengineering techniques in retinal transplantation research.