Tissue Engineering Strategies for Retina Regeneration

Appl Sci (Basel). 2021 Mar;11(5):2154. doi: 10.3390/app11052154. Epub 2021 Feb 28.


The retina is a complex and fragile photosensitive part of the central nervous system which is prone to degenerative diseases leading to permanent vision loss. No proven treatment strategies exist to treat or reverse the degenerative conditions. Recent investigations demonstrate that cell transplantation therapies to replace the dysfunctional retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells and or the degenerating photoreceptors (PRs) are viable options to restore vision. Pluripotent stem cells, retinal progenitor cells, and somatic stem cells are the main cell sources used for cell transplantation therapies. The success of retinal transplantation based on cell suspension injection is hindered by limited cell survival and lack of cellular integration. Recent advances in material science helped to develop strategies to grow cells as intact monolayers or as sheets on biomaterial scaffolds for transplantation into the eyes. Such implants are found to be more promising than the bolus injection approach. Tissue engineering techniques are specifically designed to construct biodegradable or non-degradable polymer scaffolds to grow cells as a monolayer and construct implantable grafts. The engineered cell construct along with the extracellular matrix formed, can hold the cells in place to enable easy survival, better integration, and improved visual function. This article reviews the advances in the use of scaffolds for transplantation studies in animal models and their application in current clinical trials.

Keywords: age-related macular degeneration; biomaterials; retinal degenerative diseases; retinal pigment epithelium; stem cells; tissue engineering.