Decellularised extracellular matrix-derived peptides from neural retina and retinal pigment epithelium enhance the expression of synaptic markers and light responsiveness of human pluripotent stem cell derived retinal organoids

Biomaterials. 2019 Apr;199:63-75. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2019.01.028. Epub 2019 Jan 22.


Tissue specific extracellular matrices (ECM) provide structural support and enable access to molecular signals and metabolites, which are essential for directing stem cell renewal and differentiation. To mimic this phenomenon in vitro, tissue decellularisation approaches have been developed, resulting in the generation of natural ECM scaffolds that have comparable physical and biochemical properties of the natural tissues and are currently gaining traction in tissue engineering and regenerative therapies due to the ease of standardised production, and constant availability. In this manuscript we report the successful generation of decellularised ECM-derived peptides from neural retina (decel NR) and retinal pigment epithelium (decel RPE), and their impact on differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) to retinal organoids. We show that culture media supplementation with decel RPE and RPE-conditioned media (CM RPE) significantly increases the generation of rod photoreceptors, whilst addition of decel NR and decel RPE significantly enhances ribbon synapse marker expression and the light responsiveness of retinal organoids. Photoreceptor maturation, formation of correct synapses between retinal cells and recording of robust light responses from hPSC-derived retinal organoids remain unresolved challenges for the field of regenerative medicine. Enhanced rod photoreceptor differentiation, synaptogenesis and light response in response to addition of decellularised matrices from RPE and neural retina as shown herein provide a novel and substantial advance in generation of retinal organoids for drug screening, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.

Keywords: Decellularisation; Extracellular matrix; Human pluripotent stem cells; Neural retina; RPE; Retinal organoids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism*
  • Cattle
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Culture Media, Conditioned / pharmacology
  • Extracellular Matrix / chemistry*
  • Extracellular Matrix / drug effects
  • Extracellular Matrix / radiation effects
  • Human Embryonic Stem Cells / cytology
  • Human Embryonic Stem Cells / drug effects
  • Human Embryonic Stem Cells / radiation effects
  • Human Embryonic Stem Cells / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Light*
  • Organoids / cytology*
  • Organoids / drug effects
  • Organoids / radiation effects
  • Organoids / ultrastructure
  • Peptides / pharmacology*
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Vertebrate / cytology
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Vertebrate / drug effects
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Vertebrate / radiation effects
  • Photoreceptor Cells, Vertebrate / ultrastructure
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / drug effects
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / radiation effects
  • Retinal Pigment Epithelium / metabolism*
  • Synapses / drug effects
  • Synapses / metabolism*
  • Synapses / radiation effects


  • Biomarkers
  • Culture Media, Conditioned
  • Peptides