The growth in refractive surgeries and corneal replacements has fueled interest in the development of a tissue-engineered cornea. This study characterizes the microstructure and biomechanical properties of film-based corneal stroma equivalents over time in culture. The increased collagen density in the films was hypothesized to result in improved mechanical properties both initially and over time. The microstructure of the film-based stromal equivalent was examined using atomic force microscopy and scanning electron microscopy; the mechanical properties, relaxed modulus, and ultimate tensile strength were quantified using uniaxial tensile testing. The dense, film-based stromal equivalent had a lamellae-like microstructure, which was notably different than the porous structure of sponges used previously. Seeded human corneal stromal fibroblasts remained on the surface of the film rather than migrating into the film and produced fibers of extracellular matrix with diameters of 35-75 nm. After an initial decrease during hydration, the relaxed modulus and ultimate tensile strength for fully hydrated collagen films were 0.4 ± 0.2 MPa and 0.3 ± 0.1 MPa, respectively. The mechanical properties of cell-seeded films mimicked those of control films. While further studies are needed to quantify the optical properties, the dense, lamellae-like structure of collagen films is a feasible scaffold for the development of tissue-engineered stroma.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||11|
|State||Published - Jun 2006|