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Retinal pigment epithelium transplantation in retinal diseases

Chen, F.K.; (2011) Retinal pigment epithelium transplantation in retinal diseases. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access


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Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and inherited macular diseases (IMD) are retinal disorders that can cause blindness through atrophy of the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) or choroidal neovascularisation (CNV). RPE transplantation in severe forms of neovascular AMD has been performed with promising short-term outcomes. However, this approach has not been evaluated in atrophic types of AMD or IMD. Furthermore, the long-term outcomes of photoreceptors cell function rescue by RPE reconstruction in neovascular AMD is unknown. Current surgical techniques are complex with associated high complication rates. Therefore, other treatment approaches to reconstruct the RPE are required. This thesis aims to examine whether long-term photoreceptor cell function rescue can be achieved through RPE reconstruction by investigating the outcomes of autologous RPE transplantation or full macular translocation in AMD and IMD. A further aim is to determine the feasibility of a new approach to reconstruct the RPE using human embryonic stem cell (hESC). A prospective study of autologous RPE-choroid grafts in 9 patients with atrophic macular disease secondary to AMD or IMD demonstrated that submacular RPE graft can support retinal function and fixation. However, there was a high surgical and post-operative complication rates and the overall visual acuity and reading ability declined. Long-term follow-up demonstrated that the graft can maintain retinal function for over 2 years in some patients. A retrospective review of long-term outcomes following autologous RPE-choroid grafts and full macular translocation in 12 and 40 patients with neovascular AMD, respectively, showed that rescue of retinal function beyond 2 years is possible. A visual acuity of 6/12 was achieved and maintained for over 2 years in 8% and 15% of patients who had patch graft and translocation, respectively. However, overall visual acuity outcomes were limited by delayed post-operative complications such as recurrent CNV and cystoid macular oedema. A prospective porcine experiment showed that subretinal implant of hESC derived-RPE was feasible and human donor cell can survive in vivo for up to 6 weeks. However, there was significant loss of the hESC-RPE which may have occurred intra-operatively or during the first 2 weeks post-operatively. Macrophages were noted at the site of the graft suggesting some inflammatory and immunological responses to the human cells, polyester substrate or surgical trauma. The work in this thesis has provided the proof of principle that reconstruction of the RPE can maintain retinal function in atrophic and neovascular macular diseases over the long-term. A novel approach using hESC-RPE on an artificial substrate may be a more feasible and safer alternative to current clinical techniques of RPE reconstruction.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Retinal pigment epithelium transplantation in retinal diseases
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Appendix 1 (pp 291-321) containing copies of published articles removed from the copy here due to copyright restrictions
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Institute of Ophthalmology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1318070
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