Development of polymeric hybrid scaffolds for corneal tissue engineering

01 November 2021 → 23 November 2025
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Natural sciences
    • Chemical characterisation of materials
    • Synthesis of materials
  • Engineering and technology
    • Biomaterials
    • Tissue engineering
    • Polymers and plastics
Corneal tissue engineering Gelatin modification Graft copolymer synthesis
Project description

The cornea is a multi-layered and transparent membrane that focusses incoming light on the lens. One of the layers is the endothelium, which is a monolayer of corneal endothelial cells (CEnCs) responsible for the clarity of the cornea. Several diseases can cause damage to this monolayer which might result in visual impairment or blindness. Corneal blindness is the 4th cause of blindness, affecting more than 10 million people worldwide. The main treatment comprises a corneal transplantation. However, there is a severe donor shortage since only 1 donor cornea is available for 70 people on the waiting list. The aim of this PhD proposal is to overcome the limitations regarding the low donor availability by developing a suitable donor tissue independent implant that can restore the endothelium. To this end, membranes will be produced on which lab-grown CEnCs will be seeded, after which the entire implant will be implanted into the cornea and restore its transparency. To develop a cell interactive and transparent scaffold that is strong enough for implantation, multiple approaches will be investigated and their performance will be compared. Single- and double-layered membranes that are cell interactive and mechanically strong enough will be produced. The required cell-interactivity will be provided by modified gelatines while poly(D,L-lactic acid) or poly(styrene-co-maleic anhydride) are chosen for their structural integrity.