Paper: Amine functional hydrogels as selective substrates for corneal epithelialization

Group member Enas Hassan has published a new paper in Acta Biomaterials entitled ‘Amine functional hydrogels as selective substrates for corneal epithelialization’. This paper comes from Enas Hassan and Stephen Rimmer through collaboration with Frederik Claeyssens and Sheila MacNeil.

The aim of this study was to develop a synthetic hydrogel to act as a corneal substitute capable of selectively supporting the adhesion and proliferation of limbal epithelial cells (LECs) while inhibiting growth of limbal fibroblasts. Deficiency of LECs causes conjunctival epithelial cells to move over the cornea, producing a thick scar pannus. Unilateral defects can be treated using LEC cultured from the unaffected eye, transplanting them to the affected cornea after scar tissue is removed. The underlying wound bed is often damaged, however, hence the need to develop a corneal inlay to aid in corneal re-epithelialization. Transparent epoxy-functional polymethacrylate networks were synthesized using a combination of glycerol monomethacrylate, ethylene glycol dimethacrylate, lauryl methacrylate and glycidyl methacrylate that produced two different bulk hydrogel compositions with different equilibrium water contents (EWCs): Base 1 and Base 2, EWC=55% and 35%, respectively. Two sets of amine-functional hydrogels were produced following reaction of the epoxide groups with excesses of either ammonia, 1,2-diamino ethane, 1,3-diamino propane, 1,4-diamino butane or 1,6-diamino hexane. Neither series of hydrogels supported the proliferation of limbal fibroblasts irrespective of amine functionalization but they both supported the adhesion and proliferation of limbal epithelial cells, particularly when functionalized with 1,4-diamino butane. With Base 1 hydrogels (less so with Base 2) a vigorous epithelial outgrowth was seen from small limbal explants and a confluent epithelial layer was achieved in vitro within 6days. The data support the development of hydrogels specific for epithelial formation.

The full paper can be found here: Acta Biomaterials