Injectable gelatin hydroxyphenyl propionic acid hydrogel protects human retinal progenitor cells (hRPCs) from shear stress applied during small-bore needle injection
Published on Jun 1, 2020in Applied Materials Today8.352
· DOI :10.1016/J.APMT.2020.100602
Abstract Many progenitor and stem cell-based therapies in pre-clinical development and in clinical trial have failed to achieve desired outcomes, in part, due to: low cell viability; dispersion of cells from the injection site; and/or failure of the cells to differentiate and engraft into host tissue. These problems may be exacerbated by the elevated shear stress applied to the cells as they pass through a small-bore needle. Our supposition is that these issues can be mitigated by replacing the phosphate buffered saline (PBS), which is likely employed as the cell carrier, with an injectable gelatin-based hydrogel incorporating an appropriate regulatory molecule (human epidermal growth factor). The first objectives of the study were to evaluate in vitro: the effects of injection through a 31-gauge needle on viability, proliferation, and phenotypic expression of human retinal progenitor cells (hRPCs), when employing PBS as the carrier and compare it to a gelatin-based gel as a carrier. The second objective of the work, conducted in vivo, in a rat model, was to: determine the degree of engraftment of injected cells; and evaluate markers of an immune response to the xenogeneic cells.Hydroxyphenyl propionic acid was conjugated to gelatin (Gtn-HPA) to enable in situ, enzyme-mediated covalent cross-linking, with independent control over the gelation time and degree of cross-linking. After 1 and 6 culture days, hRPC exposed to shear stress showed 50% or more reduction in viability of cells in PBS compared to cells in medium and in gel. Shear stress decreased proliferation and increased apoptosis in the PBS group by 50% or more, while cells in the gel group were protected from shear-induced apoptosis and their proliferation remained 2-fold higher than the PBS group. Also, of note was the preservation of or increase in stemness markers in the gel with hEGF group compared to cells in PBS and the gel alone, with or without shear stress. In vivo studies, performed 3 days after subretinal injection into non-immunosuppressed rats revealed: a) a greater number of cells at the injection site in the gel group, with signs of engraftment of cells to the retina; and b) a significantly lower immune response in the gel group, compared to cells injected in PBS.This work demonstrates that the shear stress experienced by hRPCs in PBS as a result of injection through a small-bore needle adversely affects cell viability, proliferation, apoptosis, phenotype, in vivo retention of cells at the injection site, migration, engraftment and immune reaction. These findings suggest the use of a biomaterial hydrogel as a replacement for PBS for retinal cell therapy.