Human pluripotent stem cell-derived retinal pigment epithelium (iRPE) is an attractive cell source for disease modeling and cell replacement therapy of retinal disorders with RPE defects. However, there are still challenges to develop appropriate culture conditions close to in vivo microenvironment to generate iRPE sheets, which mimic more faithfully the characteristics and functions of the human RPE cells. Here, we developed a simple, novel platform to construct authentic iRPE sheets using human amniotic membrane (hAM) as a natural scaffold. The decellularized hAM (dAM) provided a Bruch's membrane (BM)-like bioscaffold, supported the iRPE growth and enhanced the epithelial features, polarity distribution and functional features of iRPE cells. Importantly, RNA-seq analysis was performed to compare the transcriptomes of iRPE cells cultured on different substrates, which revealed the potential mechanism that dAM supported and promoted iRPE growth was the inhibition of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). The tissue-engineered iRPE sheets survived and kept monolayer when transplanted into the subretinal space of rabbits. All together, our results indicate that the dAM imitating the natural BM allows for engineering authentic human RPE sheets, which will provide valuable biomaterials for disease modeling, drug screening and cell replacement therapy of retinal degenerative diseases. STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE: Engineered RPE sheets have a great advantage over RPE cell suspension for transplantation as they support RPE growth in an intact monolayer which RPE functions are dependent on. The substrates for RPE culture play a critical role to maintain the physiological functions of the RPE in stem cell therapies for patients with retinal degeneration. In this study, we constructed engineered iRPE sheets on the decellularized human amniotic membrane scaffolds, which contributed to enhancing epithelial features, polarity distribution and functional features of iRPE. dAM exhibited the ability of anti-epithelial mesenchymal transition to support iRPE growth. Furthermore, the results of transplantation in vivo demonstrated the feasibility of iRPE sheets in retina regenerative therapy. Engineering RPE sheets on dAM is a promising strategy to facilitate the development of iRPE replacement therapy and retinal disease modeling.
Keywords: Cell therapy; Human amniotic membrane; Retinal pigment epithelial cells; Stem cell; Tissue engineering.
Copyright © 2022. Published by Elsevier Ltd.