PURPOSETo determine whether resurfacing submacular human Bruch's membrane with a cell-deposited extracellular matrix (ECM) improves retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) survival.METHODSBovine corneal endothelial (BCE) cells were seeded onto the inner collagenous layer of submacular Bruch's membrane explants of human donor eyes to allow ECM deposition. Control explants from fellow eyes were cultured in medium only. The deposited ECM was exposed by removing BCE. Fetal RPE cells were then cultured on these explants for 1, 14, or 21 days. The explants were analyzed quantitatively by light microscopy and scanning electron microscopy. Surviving RPE cells from explants cultured for 21 days were harvested to compare bestrophin and RPE65 mRNA expression. Mass spectroscopy was performed on BCE-ECM to examine the protein composition.RESULTSThe BCE-treated explants showed significantly higher RPE nuclear density than did the control explants at all time points. RPE expressed more differentiated features on BCE-treated explants than on untreated explants, but expressed very little mRNA for bestrophin or RPE65. The untreated young (<50 years) and African American submacular Bruch's membrane explants supported significantly higher RPE nuclear densities (NDs) than did the Caucasian explants. These differences were reduced or nonexistent in the BCE-ECM-treated explants. Proteins identified in the BCE-ECM included ECM proteins, ECM-associated proteins, cell membrane proteins, and intracellular proteins.CONCLUSIONSIncreased RPE survival can be achieved on aged submacular human Bruch's membrane by resurfacing the latter with a cell-deposited ECM. Caucasian eyes seem to benefit the most, as cell survival is the worst on submacular Bruch's membrane in these eyes.