Primordium of an artificial Bruch's membrane made of nanofibers for engineering of retinal pigment epithelium cell monolayers

Patrick H. Warnke*, Mohammad A. Alamein, Stuart Skabo, Sebastien Stephens, Robert Bourke, Peter Heiner, Qin Liu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

92 Citations (Scopus)


Transplanted retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells hold promise for treatment of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and Stargardt disease (SD), but it is conceivable that the degenerated host Bruch's membrane (BM) as a natural substrate for RPE might not optimally support transplanted cell survival with correct cellular organization. We fabricated novel ultrathin three-dimensional (3-D) nanofibrous membranes from collagen type I and poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA) by an advanced clinical-grade needle-free electrospinning process. The nanofibrillar 3-D networks closely mimicked the fibrillar architecture of the native inner collagenous layer of human BM. Human RPE cells grown on our nanofibrous membranes bore a striking resemblance to native human RPE. They exhibited a correctly orientated monolayer with a polygonal cell shape and abundant sheet-like microvilli on their apical surfaces. RPE cells built tight junctions and expressed RPE65 protein. Flat 2-D PLGA film and cover glass as controls delivered inferior RPE layers. Our nanofibrous membranes may imitate the natural BM to such extent that they allow for the engineering of an in vivo-like human RPE monolayer that maintains the natural biofunctional characteristics. Such ultrathin membranes may provide a promising vehicle for a functional RPE cell monolayer implantation in the subretinal space in patients with AMD or SD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9414-9422
Number of pages9
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


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