Study of patterned. multilayered, collagen-based scaffolds designed toserve as a cornea stroma

Kılıç, Cemile
Cornea is the most exterior, avascular and transparent layer of the eye and is about 500 µm in thick. It protects the eye from external objects and it is the main optical element of the eye refracting 70 % of the incoming light. After cataract, corneal diseases and wounds are the second leading cause of the blindness that affects more than 4 million people worldwide. For the highly damaged corneas where the corrections with spectacles or contact lenses cannot be achieved, tissue replacement is the only choice, and is done by cornea transplantation or keratoprostheses. However, due to limited number of donor corneas and the risk of infections during transplantation, and development of glaucoma, necrosis and other complications caused by the keratoprostheses, prevent them from meeting expectations. Tissue engineering is a promising field which emerged from biomaterials science and aims to replace, restore or improve the function of the diseased or injured tissues. In this method, after the production of an ideal scaffold that mimics the natural human tissue, cells of the host are isolated, increased in number, and seeded on the scaffold developed to serve as the microenvironment of the cells. In the current study a 3D corneal stroma replacement was designed to mimic the native stroma. It consisted of 4 films of patterned collagen or collagen blended with Elastin Like Recombinamer (ELR) stacked on top of each other and then crosslinked by dehydrothermal (DHT) treatment. The characterization of the films showed that the pattern fidelity was good and they did not deteriorate after crosslinking. Enzymatic and in situ degradation studies showed that the DHT treatment at 150 oC for 24 h (DHT150) was the optimum condition. The transparency of all the films was quite high where uncrosslinked (UXL) films and DHT150 Col:ELR films yielded the best results. The individual films and 3D construct of 4 stacked films were seeded with isolated human corneal keratocytes (HK) and cultured for 21 days. Cells attached and proliferated well on the single Col and Col:ELR films. However, the proliferation was higher on Col multilayer constructs than their Col:ELR counterparts. Cells were aligned along the patterns of the films while no significant alignment was observed for the cells on unpatterned films. Ultimate tensile strength (UTS) and Young’s Modulus (E) of Col and Col:ELR films were significantly lower after a 30 day culture than that of unseeded films of Day 1. Transparency of the seeded Col:ELR films was superior to Col films over a 30 days test and quite close to the transmittance of the native human cornea. It was concluded that the Col and Col:ELR patterned films and their 3D constructs have a significant potential for use as a corneal stroma equivalent.