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Enhanced Transepithelial Riboflavin Delivery Using Femtosecond Laser-Machined Epithelial Microchannels.

  • Author(s): Bradford, Samantha
  • Mikula, Eric
  • Xie, Yilu
  • Juhasz, Tibor
  • Brown, Donald J
  • Jester, James V
  • et al.
Abstract

Purpose

This study describes a femtosecond laser (FS) approach to machine corneal epithelial microchannels for enhancing riboflavin (Rf) penetration into the cornea prior to corneal crosslinking (CXL).

Methods

Using a 1030-nm FS laser with 5- to 10-µJ pulse energy, the corneal epithelium of slaughterhouse rabbit eyes was machined to create 2-µm-diameter by 25-µm-long microchannels at a density of 100 or 400 channels/mm2. Rf penetration through the microchannels was then determined by applying 1% Rf in phosphate-buffered saline for 30 minutes followed by removal of the cornea and extraction from the central stromal button. Stromal Rf concentrations were then compared to those obtained using standard epithelial debridement or 0.01% benzalkonium chloride (BAK) to disrupt the epithelial barrier.

Results

Microchannels formed using a 5-µJ/pulse at a density of 400 channels/mm2 achieved a stromal Rf concentration that was 50% of that achieved by removal of the corneal epithelium and imbibing with 1% Rf. Stromal Rf levels were also equal to that of debrided corneas soaked with 0.5% Rf, threefold higher than those soaked with 0.1% Rf, and twofold higher than corneas soaked in BAK without epithelial debridement. Organ culture of treated corneas showed a normal corneal epithelium following FS machining while BAK-treated corneas showed extensive epithelial and stromal damage at 24 hours posttreatment.

Conclusions

FS corneal epithelial machining can be used to enhance penetration of Rf into the stroma for corneal CXL.

Translational relevance

The creation of epithelial microchannels allows for stromal Rf concentrations high enough to perform true transepithelial crosslinking.

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