Biological engineers validate alternative treatments for AMD disease

Retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells help maintain healthy vision by transporting nutrients to the parts of the eye that visualize light. When RPE cells begin to break down and detach, it can lead to a condition called age-related macular degeneration (AMD), one of the leading causes of vision loss for older adults.

To explore the relationship between RPE cell detachment and AMD development, Elizabeth Vargis and colleagues at Utah State University used a method called micropatterning, or creation of specifically patterned surfaces, to control the arrangement of RPE cells using stencils. Patterns were formed in the stencils to mimic 10 percent, 25 percent, and 50 percent detachment within an RPE cell layer. Concentrations of other proteins in the eye were also measured as potential treatments.

Results, published in the Molecular Vision Journal, showed that the growth of RPE cells was successfully controlled by the stencil patterns. Vargis and colleagues found that when RPE cells were not held together correctly, the cells’ ability to support photoreceptors, which are necessary for seeing, was reduced. They also found that the cells excreted levels of harmful proteins that could contribute to vision loss. Targeting those proteins for treatment could be a useful strategy for treating AMD, but more research will be needed to understand the timeline of their contributions to retinal diseases.

Source: Utah State University, Medical Xpress, November 3, 2023; see source article