Project

Introducing smart polymers in the field of corneal endothelial tissue engineering: solving a blinding disease

Duration
01 January 2019 → Ongoing
Funding
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Medical and health sciences
    • Ophthalmology and optometry
    • Ophthalmology and optometry
    • Ophthalmology and optometry
Keywords
corneal endothelial tissue
 
Project description

Eye diseases are responsible for a huge economical burden globally, but are also associated with a
drastic decrease in quality of life. Some of these diseases are associated to the loss of transparency
of the window of the eye, namely the cornea. The cornea is the outermost part of the eye and is
composed out of 3 different cell layers. The innermost layer, the corneal endothelium, maintains
critical corneal hydration. Upon ageing, disease or trauma, this cell layer can be damaged to such an
extent that the cornea swells and loses its transparency, which leads to blindness. Currently, the
only treatment consists of full or partial transplantation of a donor cornea. Unfortunately, the
supply does not meet the demand by far since only 1 donor is available per 70 patients. To
overcome this limitation, the present project aims to develop a synthetic alternative that allows the
efficient transplantation of healthy cells towards the site of tissue defect. To this end, biodegradable
membranes will be developed using a combination of smart polyesters with shape memory effects,
in combination with gelatin derivatives that mimic the cellular environment. These carriers will be
seeded with cells, to allow transplantation to the site of tissue defect. Furthermore, the membranes
will be analysed in depth both for mechanical properties as in vitro behavior prior to in vivo animal
studies. Ideally, at the end of the project, the developed membrane should be ready for clinical
trials.