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Fang Chen, David C. Mundy, Peter Le, Youngyoon Amy Seo, Caitlin M. Logan, Gabriella Maria Fernandes-Cunha, Chris A. Basco, David Myung; In Situ-Forming Collagen-Hyaluronate Semi-Interpenetrating Network Hydrogel Enhances Corneal Defect Repair. Trans. Vis. Sci. Tech. 2022;11(10):22. https://doi.org/10.1167/tvst.11.10.22.
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Millions worldwide suffer vision impairment or blindness from corneal injury, and there remains an urgent need for a more effective and accessible way to treat corneal defects. We have designed and characterized an in situ-forming semi-interpenetrating polymer network (SIPN) hydrogel using biomaterials widely used in ophthalmology and medicine.
The SIPN was formed by cross-linking collagen type I with bifunctional polyethylene glycol using N-hydroxysuccinimide ester chemistry in the presence of linear hyaluronic acid (HA). Gelation time and the mechanical, optical, swelling, and degradation properties of the SIPN were assessed. Cytocompatibility with human corneal epithelial cells and corneal stromal stem cells (CSSCs) was determined in vitro, as was the spatial distribution of encapsulated CSSCs within the SIPN. In vivo wound healing was evaluated by multimodal imaging in an anterior lamellar keratectomy injury model in rabbits, followed by immunohistochemical analysis of treated and untreated tissues.
The collagen-hyaluronate SIPN formed in situ without an external energy source and demonstrated mechanical and optical properties similar to the cornea. It was biocompatible with human corneal cells, enhancing CSSC viability when compared with collagen gel controls and preventing encapsulated CSSC sedimentation. In vivo application of the SIPN significantly reduced stromal defect size compared with controls after 7 days and promoted multilayered epithelial regeneration.
This in situ-forming SIPN hydrogel may be a promising alternative to keratoplasty and represents a step toward expanding treatment options for patients suffering from corneal injury.
We detail the synthesis and initial characterization of an SIPN hydrogel as a potential alternative to lamellar keratoplasty and a tunable platform for further development in corneal tissue engineering and therapeutic cell delivery.
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