Age-related macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa and glaucoma are among the many retinal degenerative diseases where retinal cell death leads to irreversible vision loss and blindness. Working toward a cell-replacement-based therapy for such diseases, a number of research groups have recently evaluated the feasibility of using retinal progenitor cells (RPCs) cultured and transplanted on biodegradable polymer substrates to replace damaged retinal tissue. Appropriate polymer substrate design is essential to providing a three-dimensional environment that can facilitate cell adhesion, proliferation and post-transplantation migration into the host environment. In this study, we have designed and fabricated a novel, ultra-thin electrospun poly(ϵ-caprolactone) (PCL) scaffold with microscale fiber diameters, appropriate porosity for infiltration by RPCs, and biologically compatible mechanical characteristics. We have verified that our electrospun PCL scaffold supports robust mouse RPC proliferation, adhesion, and differentiation in vitro, as well as migration into mouse retinal explants. These promising results make PCL a strong candidate for further development as a cell transplantation substrate in retinal regenerative research.
Keywords: Progenitor cell; biocompatibility; electrospinning; polycaprolactone; retina; scaffold.