Biomaterials regenerate corneal tissues, nerves

May 7, 2012

Biometric polymers can be used to tissue engineer biointeractive scaffolds for regeneration of human corneas. Results after 4 years in a phase I study of 10 patients with keratoconus or deep central scarring show stable integration of artificial corneas made from a combination of collagen and other components, said May Griffith, PhD, MBA.

Fort Lauderdale, FL-Biometric polymers can be used to tissue engineer biointeractive scaffolds for regeneration of human corneas. Results after 4 years in a phase I study of 10 patients with keratoconus or deep central scarring show stable integration of artificial corneas made from a combination of collagen and other components, said May Griffith, PhD, MBA.

Most of the remodeling occurred within the first 3 months following implantation, after which the tissue stabilized. These implants have integrated with the patients’ own tissues, and visually the patients look very normal, said Dr. Griffith, director of the Integrative Regenerative Medicine Centre at Linkoping University, Sweden, and a professor at the University of Ottawa.

However, nerve regeneration and sensitivity in these grafts are not equivalent to those of unoperated cornea; this is also true of allografts. While some patients in the study have problems with haze, this is believed to be due to the surgical implantation method.

Changes in materials and technique should improve the outcomes of future trials, Dr. Griffith said.

She explained that visual acuity needs improvement, which could be achieved by using more robust biomaterials that would not cave in with sutures. A new surgical implantation technique could eliminate the problematic sutures, and novel approaches are being evaluated at Linkoping and elsewhere.

Once changes have been made, Dr. Griffith hopes to do new clinical studies of artificial corneas. Success with the cornea also could lead to regeneration of other tissues.

“We chose the cornea as the target because it’s a simple tissue,” Dr. Griffith said. “If we can regenerate the cornea, then there’s hope for more complicated tissues.”

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