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Prog Retin Eye Res. 2007 Sep;26(5):516-54. Epub 2007 Mar 6.

Transplantation of the RPE in AMD.

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Department of Ophthalmology, Rudolf Foundation Clinic, Hospital of the City of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.


The retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) maintains retinal function as the metabolic gatekeeper between photoreceptors (PRs) and the choriocapillaries. The RPE and Bruch's membrane (BM) suffer cumulative damage over lifetime, which is thought to induce age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in susceptible individuals. Unlike palliative pharmacologic treatments, replacement of the RPE has a curative potential for AMD. This article reviews mechanisms leading to RPE dysfunction in aging and AMD, laboratory studies on RPE transplantation, and surgical techniques used in AMD patients. Future strategies using ex vivo steps prior to transplantation, BM prosthetics, and stem cell applications are discussed. The functional peculiarity of the macular region, epigenetic phenomena leading to an age-related shift in protein expression, along with the accumulation of lipofuscin may affect the metabolism in the central RPE. Thickening of BM with age decreases its hydraulic conductivity. Drusen are deposits of extracellular material and formed in part by activation of the alternative complement pathway in individuals carrying a mutant allele of complement factor H. AMD likely represents an umbrella term for a disease entity with multifactorial etiology and manifestations. Presently, a slow progressing (dry) non-neovascular atrophic form and a rapidly blinding neovascular (wet) form are discerned. No therapy is currently available for the former, while RPE transplantation and promising (albeit non-causal) anti-angiogenic therapies are available for the latter. The potential of RPE transplantation was demonstrated in animal models. Rejection of allogeneic homologous transplants in patients focused further studies on autologous sources. In vitro studies elucidated cell adhesion and wound healing mechanisms on aged human BM. Currently, autologous RPE, harvested from the midperiphery, is being transplanted as a cell suspension or a patch of RPE and choroid in AMD patients. These techniques have been evaluated from several groups. Autologous RPE transplants may have the disadvantage of carrying the same genetic information that may have led to AMD manifestation. An intermittent culturing step would allow for in vitro therapy of the RPE, its rejuvenation and prosthesis of BM to improve the success RPE transplants. Recent advances in stem cell biology when combined with lessons learned from studies of RPE transplantation are intriguing future therapeutic modalities for AMD patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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