Corneal dysfunction, and in particular, aging, disease, and trauma of the endothelial layer of the cornea, is the second most common cause of blindness. The standard treatment for corneal endothelial dysfunction is to replace the affected endothelial layer of the cornea with portions of a donor cornea (Endothelial Keratoplasty (EK)).
Currently, the number of EKs performed is limited by the availability of donor corneas and in some cases, cultural or individual aversion to donor transplants and, with an increasingly aging population, the demand for donor corneas will continue to rise. Additionally, tissue rejection of the donor cornea is one of the most common causes of repeat EK procedures (~1 in 4 corneal transplants).
While there are commercially available artificial corneas, these products are only used as a last resort for cases where the entire cornea (not just the endothelial layer) requires replacement and multiple transplant rejections have already occurred. Additionally, artificial corneas are not bioresorbable and have a high adverse effect profile.
Researchers at the University of Melbourne (UoM) have developed a bioresorbable polymer hydrogel film [Figure 1] that when seeded with autologous or allogeneic corneal endothelial cells (CECs), serves as a tissue engineered corneal endothelium (TECE) graft. In vivo studies of allogeneic TECE grafts in sheep models conducted in collaboration with the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) demonstrate that the TECE graft can restore function of the corneal endothelium as evidenced by the elimination of corneal oedema (swelling) [Figure 2].
Figure 1. UoM bioresorbable polymer hydrogel film. Scale bar represents 5mm. Thickness ~31mm.
- Features a proprietary bioresobable polymer hydrogel film scaffold
- Compatible with current EK techniques and equipment
- Overcomes challenges associated with lack of donor corneas
- Overcomes cultural or individual aversion to donor transplants
- Autologous CEC approach eliminates risk of rejection and disease transmission associated with allogeneic cornea transplants
PCT/AU2014/000391, Filed 10th April 2014, Biodegradable network polymers for regenerative medicine and tissue engineering; National Phase entry in US, EU, JP, AU, CN, IN, and BR (CA entry planned for 2016)
- Greg Qiao (Deputy Head of Biomolecular & Chemical Engineering, UoM)
- Berkay Ozcelik
- Anthony Blencowe
- Mark Daniell (Head of Corneal Clinic, CERA)
- Karl Brown
Technology Licensing Services
The University of Melbourne
T: +61 3 8344 6810
Download the Tissue Engineered Corneal Endothelium Graft flyer.