Epithelial Cell Culture Protocols

Volume 945 of the series Methods in Molecular Biology pp 45-65


The Culture and Maintenance of Functional Retinal Pigment Epithelial Monolayers from Adult Human Eye

  • Timothy A. BlenkinsopAffiliated withNeural Stem Cell Institute
  • , Enrique SaleroAffiliated withNeural Stem Cell Institute
  • , Jeffrey H. SternAffiliated withNeural Stem Cell Institute
  • , Sally TempleAffiliated withNeural Stem Cell Institute Email author 

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The retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) is implicated in many eye diseases, including age-related macular degeneration, and therefore isolating and culturing these cells from recently deceased adult human donors is the ideal source for disease studies. Adult RPE could also be used as a cell source for transplantation therapy for RPE degenerative disease, likely requiring first in vitro expansion of the cells obtained from a patient. Previous protocols have successfully extracted RPE from adult donors; however improvements in yield, cell survival, and functionality are needed. We describe here a protocol optimized for adult human tissue that yields expanded cultures of RPE with morphological, phenotypic, and functional characteristics similar to freshly isolated RPE. These cells can be expanded and cultured for several months without senescence, gross cell death, or undergoing morphological changes. The protocol takes around a month to obtain functional RPE monolayers with accurate morphological characteristics and normal protein expression, as shown through immunohistochemistry analysis, RNA expression profiles via quantitative PCR (qPCR), and transepithelial resistance (TER) measurements. Included in this chapter are steps used to extract RPE from human adult globes, cell culture, cell splitting, cell bleaching, immunohistochemistry, and qPCR for RPE markers, and TER measurements as functional test.

Key words

Human adult retinal pigment epithelium Epithelial mesenchymal transition RPE culture RPE expansion Characterization of RPE Age-related macular degeneration