Recent advances in induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology have paved the way for the production of patient-specific neurons that are ideal for autologous cell replacement for treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. In the case of retinal degeneration and associated photoreceptor cell therapy, polymer scaffolds are critical for cellular survival and integration; however, prior attempts to materialize this concept have been unsuccessful in part due to the materials' inability to guide cell alignment. In this work, we used two-photon polymerization to create 180μm wide non-degradable prototype photoreceptor scaffolds with varying pore sizes, slicing distances, hatching distances and hatching types. Hatching distance and hatching type were significant factors for the error of vertical pore diameter, while slicing distance and hatching type most affected the integrity and geometry of horizontal pores. We optimized printing parameters in terms of structural integrity and printing time in order to create 1mm wide scaffolds for cell loading studies. We fabricated these larger structures directly on a porous membrane with 3µm diameter pores and seeded them with human iPSC-derived retinal progenitor cells. After two days in culture, cells nested in and extended neuronal processes parallel to the vertical pores of the scaffolds, with maximum cell loading occurring in 25μm diameter pores. These results highlight the feasibility of using this technique as part of an autologous stem cell strategy for restoring vision to patients affected with retinal degenerative diseases.
Two-photon polymerization for production of human iPSC-derived retinal cell grafts.