Endothelial cells (ECs) of the choriocapillaris are one of the first cell types lost during age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and cell replacement therapy is currently a very promising option for patients with advanced AMD. We sought to develop a reliable method for the production of human choroidal extracellular matrix (ECM) scaffolds, which will allow for the study of choroidal EC (CEC) replacement strategies in an environment that closely resembles the native tissue. Human RPE/choroid tissue was treated sequentially with Triton X-100, SDS, and DNase to remove all native cells. While all cells were successfully removed from the tissue, collagen IV, elastin, and laminin remained, with preserved architecture of the acellular vascular tubes. The ECM scaffolds were then co-cultured with exogenous ECs to determine if the tissue can support cell growth and allow EC reintegration into the decellularized choroidal vasculature. Both monkey and human ECs took up residence in the choriocapillary tubes of the decellularized tissue. Together, these data suggest that our decellularization methods are sufficient to remove all cellular material yet gentle enough to preserve tissue structure and allow for the optimization of cell replacement strategies.
Preparation and evaluation of human choroid extracellular matrix scaffolds for the study of cell replacement strategies.