Glaucoma is a blinding disease largely caused by increased resistance to drainage of fluid from the eye's anterior chamber, resulting in elevated intraocular pressure (IOP). A major site of fluid outflow regulation and pathology is the trabecular meshwork (TM), an extracellular matrix (ECM)-rich tissue at the entrance of the eye's drainage system. We aimed to characterize the structural and functional properties of a newly developed tissue-engineered (TE) anterior segment eye culture model. We hypothesized that repopulation of decellularized TM ECM with non-native TM cells could restore intraocular pressure (IOP) homeostatic ability. Decellularized porcine anterior segment scaffolds demonstrated complete removal of cells, significant reduction of DNA content, and well-preserved ECM ultrastructure. Seeded cells localized to the TM region (p < 0.001) and progressively infiltrated meshwork ECM. Cells reached a distribution comparable to control TM after four days of perfusion culture. After perfusion rate increase challenge, TE cultures maintained healthy IOPs through regulation of outflow resistance (reseeded = 16.53 ± 0.89, decellularized = 35.23 ± 2.20 mmHg, p < 0.0001). In conclusion, we describe a readily available, storable, and biocompatible scaffold for anterior segment perfusion culture of non-native cells. TE organs demonstrated physiological similarities to native tissues and may reduce the need for scarce donor globes in outflow research.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.