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Brecken J. Blackburn, Andrew M. Rollins, William J. Dupps; Biomechanics of Ophthalmic Crosslinking. Trans. Vis. Sci. Tech. 2021;10(5):8. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/tvst.10.5.8.
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Crosslinking involves the formation of bonds between polymer chains, such as proteins. In biological tissues, these bonds tend to stiffen the tissue, making it more resistant to mechanical degradation and deformation. In ophthalmology, the crosslinking phenomenon is being increasingly harnessed and explored as a treatment strategy for treating corneal ectasias, keratitis, degenerative myopia, and glaucoma. This review surveys the multitude of exogenous crosslinking strategies reported in the literature, both “light” (involving light energy) and “dark” (involving non-photic chemical processes), and explores their mechanisms, cytotoxicity, and stage of translational development. The spectrum of ophthalmic applications described in the literature is then discussed, with particular attention to proposed therapeutic mechanisms in the cornea and sclera. The mechanical effects of crosslinking are then discussed in the context of their proposed site and scale of action. Biomechanical characterization of the crosslinking effect is needed to more thoroughly address knowledge gaps in this area, and a review of reported methods for biomechanical characterization is presented with an attempt to assess the sensitivity of each method to crosslinking-mediated changes using data from the experimental and clinical literature. Biomechanical measurement methods differ in spatial resolution, mechanical sensitivity, suitability for detecting crosslinking subtypes, and translational readiness and are central to the effort to understand the mechanistic link between crosslinking methods and clinical outcomes of candidate therapies. Data on differences in the biomechanical effect of different crosslinking protocols and their correspondence to clinical outcomes are reviewed, and strategies for leveraging measurement advances predicting clinical outcomes of crosslinking procedures are discussed.
Advancing the understanding of ophthalmic crosslinking, its biomechanical underpinnings, and its applications supports the development of next-generation crosslinking procedures that optimize therapeutic effect while reducing complications.
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