Purpose: Age-related macular degeneration leads to retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cell death and loss of central vision. In vivo studies have shown that the RPE layer has an innate, but limited, ability to repopulate atrophic areas. We aimed to establish a semiautomated, in vitro, wound healing assay workflow for targeted screening of compounds able to influence RPE wound healing. Methods: The ARPE-19 phenotype was evaluated using bright-field microscopy, immunocytochemistry, and quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction. ARPE-19 monolayers were simultaneously scratched in a 96-well format and treated with Hoechst-33342 and an array of compounds. Initial wound dimensions and wound healing were subsequently evaluated using the EVOS FL Auto 2.0 imaging platform combined with automated image analyses. Results: Long-term cultured ARPE-19 cells displayed a more in vivo RPE-like phenotype compared with recently seeded or short-term cultured cells. No statistical difference of initial scratch width was observed between short-term and long-term cultured cells, but more wells were excluded from analyses in total in the latter case due to scratch width, scratch smoothness, and imaging errors. Furthermore, the previous time spent in continuous culture had an effect on the observation of an altered wound healing response to different treatment conditions. Conclusions: We have established a semiautomated, 96-well format, in vitro wound healing assay with a reproducible workflow. This would enable screening of a significant number of compounds and greatly advances the potential of identifying novel therapeutics that may enhance the innate ability of RPE cells to repopulate atrophic areas.
J Ocul Pharmacol Ther
age-related macular degeneration, geographic atrophy, retinal pigment epithelium, wound healing assay