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Subretinal implantation of a monolayer of human embryonic stem cell-derived retinal pigment epithelium: a feasibility and safety study in Yucatán minipigs.



A subretinal implant termed CPCB-RPE1 is currently being developed to surgically replace dystrophic RPE in patients with dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and severe vision loss. CPCB-RPE1 is composed of a terminally differentiated, polarized human embryonic stem cell-derived RPE (hESC-RPE) monolayer pre-grown on a biocompatible, mesh-supported submicron parylene C membrane. The objective of the present delivery study was to assess the feasibility and 1-month safety of CPCB-RPE1 implantation in Yucatán minipigs, whose eyes are similar to human eyes in size and gross retinal anatomy.


This was a prospective, partially blinded, randomized study in 14 normal-sighted female Yucatán minipigs (aged 2 months, weighing 24-35 kg). Surgeons were blinded to the randomization codes and postoperative and post-mortem assessments were performed in a blinded manner. Eleven minipigs received CPCB-RPE1 while three control minipigs underwent sham surgery that generated subretinal blebs. All animals except two sham controls received combined local (Ozurdex™ dexamethasone intravitreal implant) and systemic (tacrolimus) immunosuppression or local immunosuppression alone. Correct placement of the CPCB-RPE1 implant was assessed by in vivo optical coherence tomography and post-mortem histology. hESC-RPE cells were identified using immunohistochemistry staining for TRA-1-85 (a human marker) and RPE65 (an RPE marker). As the study results of primary interest were nonnumerical no statistical analysis or tests were conducted.


CPCB-RPE1 implants were reliably placed, without implant breakage, in the subretinal space of the minipig eye using surgical techniques similar to those that would be used in humans. Histologically, hESC-RPE cells were found to survive as an intact monolayer for 1 month based on immunohistochemistry staining for TRA-1-85 and RPE65.


Although inconclusive regarding the necessity or benefit of systemic or local immunosuppression, our study demonstrates the feasibility and safety of CPCB-RPE1 subretinal implantation in a comparable animal model and provides an encouraging starting point for human studies.

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