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An artificial cornea is in sight, thanks to biomimetic hydrogels

al engineering in Frank's lab.

Myung's project, funded by Stanford's Bio-X interdisciplinary biosciences program, was to design, fabricate and characterize a bioengineered cornea based on the dual-network hydrogel. The result was a disc with a clear center and tiny pores populating the periphery. Myung calls the pores engineered into his artificial cornea the "homes" he built for cells that need to infiltrate the artificial lens and integrate it with surrounding natural tissue.

"If you build it, they will come," Myung says. "The cells move in, and they bring furniture too--meaning the collagen they secrete. They even 'remodel.'" Collagen binds to the edge of the synthetic disc and forms a junction between natural and synthetic tissues. Then a clear layer of epithelial cells grow over the disc.

'Broadly interdisciplinary'

Stanford's program to develop an artificial cornea is "broadly interdisciplinary," Frank says. Christopher Ta, an assistant professor of ophthalmology and ophthalmology residency director at the Stanford University Medical Center, leads the effort with Frank. Ta says scientists have tried to develop artificial corneas for half a century, but prototypes were not well tolerated. Infections developed around implants. Eyes extruded implants.A few years ago, in a pilot study for a Bio-X grant to show proof of concept, Ta began to test the hydrogel in assays to make sure it was not toxic to cells. Soon other experts joined the effort. Jaan Noolandi in Ophthalmology managed projects, worked with potential sponsors and provided insight into polymer physics. Nabeel Farooqui in Ophthalmology developed histology procedures. Won-Gun Koh, a former postdoctoral fellow in Chemical Engineering, first synthesized the polymer that Myung ultimately developed. Qi Liao, a graduate student in Chemical Engineering, contributed to a general understanding of the hydrogels. Jennifer Cochran, assistant professor in the Bioengineering
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Source:Stanford University


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