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Acta Biomater. 2019 Jan 15;84:305-316. doi: 10.1016/j.actbio.2018.11.033. Epub 2018 Nov 23.

Characterization of a tissue-engineered choroid.

Author information

1
Département d'ophtalmologie et d'ORL-CCF, Faculté de médecine, Université Laval, Québec, QC, Canada; Centre de recherche du CHU de Québec-UL, Axe médecine régénératrice, Québec, QC, Canada; Centre de recherche en organogénèse expérimentale de l'Université Laval/LOEX, Québec, QC, Canada.
2
Département d'ophtalmologie et d'ORL-CCF, Faculté de médecine, Université Laval, Québec, QC, Canada; Centre de recherche du CHU de Québec-UL, Axe médecine régénératrice, Québec, QC, Canada; Centre de recherche en organogénèse expérimentale de l'Université Laval/LOEX, Québec, QC, Canada; Centre de recherche sur le cancer de l'Université Laval, Québec, QC, Canada.
3
Département d'ophtalmologie et d'ORL-CCF, Faculté de médecine, Université Laval, Québec, QC, Canada; Centre de recherche du CHU de Québec-UL, Axe médecine régénératrice, Québec, QC, Canada; Centre de recherche en organogénèse expérimentale de l'Université Laval/LOEX, Québec, QC, Canada. Electronic address: stephanie.proulx@fmed.ulaval.ca.

Abstract

The choroid of the eye is a vascularized and pigmented connective tissue lying between the retina and the sclera. Increasing evidence demonstrates that, beyond supplying nutrients to the outer retina, the different choroidal cells contribute to the retina's homeostasis, especially by paracrine signaling. However, the precise role of each cell type is currently unclear. Here, we developed a choroidal substitute using the self-assembly approach of tissue engineering. Retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells, as well as choroidal stromal fibroblasts, vascular endothelial cells and melanocytes, were isolated from human eye bank donor eyes. Fibroblasts were cultured in a medium containing serum and ascorbic acid. After six weeks, cells formed sheets of extracellular matrix (ECM), which were stacked to produce a tissue-engineered choroidal stroma (TECS). These stromal substitutes were then characterized and compared to the native choroid. Their ECM composition (collagens and proteoglycans) and biomechanical properties (ultimate tensile strength, strain and elasticity) were similar. Furthermore, RPE cells, human umbilical vein endothelial cells and choroidal melanocytes successfully repopulated the stromas. Physiological structures were established, such as a confluent monolayer of RPE cells, vascular-like structures and a pigmentation of the stroma. Our TECS thus recaptured the biophysical environment of the native choroid, and can serve as study models to understand the normal interactions between the RPE and choroidal cells, as well as their reciprocal exchanges with the ECM. This will consequently pave the way to derive accurate insight in the pathophysiological mechanisms of diseases affecting the choroid. STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE: The choroid is traditionally known for supplying blood to the avascular outer retina. There has been a renewed attention directed towards the choroid partly due to its implication in the development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in industrialized countries. Since AMD involves the dysfunction of the choroid/retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) complex, a three-dimensional (3D) model of RPE comprising the choroid layer is warranted. We used human choroidal cells to engineer a choroidal substitute. Our approach takes advantage of the ability of cells to recreate their own environment, without exogenous materials. Our model could help to better understand the role of each choroidal cell type as well as to advance the development of new therapeutics for AMD.

KEYWORDS:

3D choroidal/RPE tissue model; Choroid; Extracellular matrix; Tissue engineering

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