POLYURETHANE NANOCOMPOSITE AS SUPPORT FOR RETINAL PIGMENTEPITHELIAL CELL GROWTH PEREIRA, A.F.1; SILVA-CUNHA, A.2; ORÉFICE, R.L.2; AYRES, E.3; DA SILVA, G.R.1 1 Federal University of São João del-Rei, Campus Centro Oeste Dona Lindu, Divinópolis, Minas Gerais, Brazil 2 Federal University of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil 3 University of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil e-mail: [email protected] Keywords: polyurethane nanocomposite, montmorillonite nanoparticles, retinal pigment epithelial cells (ARPE-19 cells), polymeric support, age-related macular degeneration (ARMD). Abstract: The subretinal transplantation of retinal pigment epithelial cells (RPE cells), grown on polymeric supports, represents a potential treatment of age-related macular degeneration. In this study, montmorillonite based polyurethane nanocomposite (PUNC) was investigated as substrate for human RPE cell growth (ARPE-19 cells). The ARPE-19 cells were seeded on the PU-NC, and the cell viability, proliferation and differentiation were investigated. The results indicated that ARPE-19 cells attached, proliferated and grew onto the nanocomposite surface. They also presented the ability of expressing occludin, which demonstrated the functionality of the epithelial cells similar to that of RPE cells in vivo. The in vivo ocular biocompatibility of the PU-NC was assessed by its implantation into the subretinal space. It was verified that the implantation of the nanocomposite into the posterior segment of the eye of rats did not elicit any rejection or inflammatory response. The PU-NC may have potential application as a substrate for RPE cell transplantation to curb visual deterioration in patients with RPE dysfunctions. Acknowledgements: The authors would like to acknowledge financial support from the following institutions: FAPEMIG (Minas Gerais - Brazil) and Federal University of São João del-Rei (UFSJ).