Langmuir-Schaefer film deposition onto honeycomb porous films for retinal tissue engineering
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Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in senior citizens in the developed world. The disease is characterised by the degeneration of a specific cell layer at the back of the eye – the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), which is essential in retinal function. The most promising therapeutic option to restore the lost vision is considered to be RPE cell transplantation. This work focuses on the development of biodegradable biomaterials with similar properties to the native Bruch’s membrane as carriers for RPE cells. In particular, the breath figure (BF) method was used to create semi-permeable microporous films, which were thereafter used as the substrate for the consecutive Langmuir-Schaefer (LS) deposition of highly organised layers of collagen type I and collagen type IV. The newly developed biomaterials were further characterised in terms of surface porosity, roughness, hydrophilicity, collagen distribution, diffusion properties and hydrolytic stability. Human embryonic stem cell-derived RPE cells (hESC-RPE) cultured on the biomaterials showed good adhesion, spreading and morphology, as well as the expression of specific protein markers. Cell function was additionally confirmed by the assessment of the phagocytic capacity of hESC-RPE. Throughout the study, microporous films consistently showed better results as cell culture materials for hESC-RPE than dip-coated controls. This work demonstrates the potential of the BF-LS combined technologies to create biomimetic prosthetic Bruch’s membranes for hESC-RPE transplantation.