Contact guidance enhances the quality of a tissue engineered corneal stroma



Corneal stroma is a very complex structure, composed of 200 lamellae of oriented collagen fibers. This highly complex nature of cornea is known to be important for its transparency and mechanical integrity. Thus, an artificial cornea design has to take into account this complex structure. In this study, behavior of human corneal keratocytes on collagen films patterned with parallel channels was investigated. Keratocytes proliferated well on films and reached confluency after 7 days in the incubation medium. Nearly all of the cells responded to the patterns and were aligned in contrast to the cells on unpatterned surfaces. Collagen type I and keratan sulfate secreted by keratocytes on patterned films appeared to be aligned in the direction of the patterns. The films showed an intermediate degradation over the course of a month. On the whole, transparency of the films increased with degradation and decreased by the presence of the cells. The decrease was, however, low and transparency level was maintained on the patterned films while on the unpatterned films a sharp decrease in transparency was followed by an improvement. This was due to the more organized distribution of cells and the oriented secretion of extracellular matrix molecules on patterned collagen films. Thus, these results suggest that application of contact guidance in cornea tissue engineering may facilitate the remodeling process, hence decrease the rehabilitation period. © 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res, 2008