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Asani, Ben ORCID: 0000-0003-4809-2859; Siedlecki, Jakob; Wertheimer, Christian; Liegl, Raffael; Wolf, Armin; Ohlmann, Andreas; Priglinger, Siegfried; Priglinger, Claudia (2022): Anti-angiogenic properties of rapamycin on human retinal pericytes in an in vitro model of neovascular AMD via inhibition of the mTOR pathway. BMC Ophthalmology, 22: 138. ISSN 1471-2415

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Choroidal neovascularizations (CNV) are partially stabilized through a coverage of pericytes leading to a partial anti-VEGF resistence. Drugs licensed for neovascular AMD (nAMD) do not take this mechanical and growth factor-driven CNV stability into account. The purpose of this work was to see if inhibiting the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) may successfully block angiogenic cellular pathways in primary human retinal pericytes in an in vitro model of nAMD.

The mTOR inhibitor rapamycin was used to treat human retinal pericytes (HRP) at doses ranging from 0.005 to 15 g/ml. A modified metabolism-based XTT-Assay was used to assess toxicity and anti-proliferative effects. A scratch wound experiment showed the effects on migration. On Cultrex basement membrane gels, the influence of rapamycin on the development of endothelial cell capillary-like structures by human umbilical vein vascular endothelial cells (HUVEC) in the absence and presence of pericytes was investigated.

Rapamycin showed no signs of toxicity within its range of solubility. The drug showed dose dependent anti-proliferative activity and inhibited migration into the scratch wound. Endothelial cell tube formation in a HUVEC monoculture was effectively inhibited at 45%. A co-culture of HUVEC with pericytes on Cultrex induced endothelial tube stabilization but was disrupted by the addition of rapamycin leading to degradation of 94% of the tubes.

Rapamycin allows for an efficient modulation of aspects of angiogenesis in pericytes via mTOR-modulation in vitro. Further studies are needed to elucidate whether rapamycin may have an impact on CNV in nAMD in vivo.

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