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Keywords:

  • biocompatibility;
  • connective tissue;
  • cornea;
  • implantation;
  • tissue engineering

Abstract

There is a severe shortage of donor cornea for transplantation in many countries. Collagenous connective tissue membranes, named BIOSHEETs, grown in vivo were successfully implanted in rabbit corneal stroma for in vivo evaluation of their suitability as a corneal stromal substitute to solve this global donor shortage. BIOSHEETs were prepared by embedding silicone moulds into dorsal subcutaneous pouches in rabbits for 1 month and stored in glycerol. After re-swelling in saline and trephining, disk-shaped BIOSHEETs (4 mm diameter) were allogeneically implanted into stromal pockets prepared in the right cornea of seven rabbits. Clinical tests for corneal thickness and transparency, and tissue analyses were performed. Because the BIOSHEETs (thickness, 131 ± 14 µm) obtained were opaque immediately after implantation, the transparency of the cornea decreased. The total thickness of the BIOSHEET-implanted cornea increased from 364 ± 21.0 µm to 726 ± 131 µm. After 4 weeks' implantation, the thickness of the cornea stabilized (493 ± 80 µm at 4 weeks and 447 ± 46 µm at 8 weeks). The transparency of the cornea increased progressively with time of implantation. The random orientation of collagen fibrils in the original BIOSHEETs tended to be homogeneous, similar to that of the native stroma. No inflammatory cells accumulated and fibroblast-like cells infiltrated the implant. The BIOSHEETs showed high biocompatibility with stromal tissues; however, further studies are needed to test its functional aspects. Although this research is only intended as a proof of concept, BIOSHEETs may be considered a feasible corneal stromal replacement, especially for treating visual impairment caused by stromal haze. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.