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The influence of substrate topography on the migration of corneal epithelial wound borders


Currently available artificial corneas can develop post-implant complications including epithelial downgrowth, infection, and stromal melting. The likelihood of developing these disastrous complications could be minimized through improved formation and maintenance of a healthy epithelium covering the implant. We hypothesize that this epithelial formation may be enhanced through the incorporation of native corneal basement membrane biomimetic chemical and physical cues onto the surface of the keratoprosthesis. We fabricated hydrogel substrates molded with topographic features containing specific bio-ligands and developed an in vitro wound healing assay. In our experiments, the rate of corneal epithelial wound healing was significantly increased by 50% in hydrogel surfaces containing topographic features, compared to flat surfaces with the same chemical attributes. We determined that this increased healing is not due to enhanced proliferation or increased spreading of the epithelial cells, but to an increased active migration of the epithelial cells. These results show the potential benefit of restructuring and improving the surface of artificial corneas to enhance epithelial coverage and more rapidly restore the formation of a functional epithelium.

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