Innovative strategy of corneal epithelium regeneration using fabricated soft contact lens containing cavities for stem cells transplantation

Transplantation of donor cornea is widely performed with a high success rate to treat patients with impaired corneal transparency. However the limited number of donors has led scientists to search for new technologies and treatments, including stem cell therapies. We have developed a device that permits the transplantation of stem cells onto the cornea in order to regenerate a functional epithelium. It is shaped as a contact lens and it possesses cavities in its internal portion that are filled with a cell suspension. The device is used as a carrier to transfer the cells onto the cornea. To test and validate our approach we created an ex vivo system to perform long-term organotypic culture on the cornea of enucleated pig eyes. We seeded corneal epithelial cells onto pig stromas. We demonstrate that 30'000 donor cells can regenerate an entire epithelium in organotypic culture conditions. By using our culture system no living animals were required during the conception and evaluation of the device. We performed preliminary in vivo trials on rabbits, which showed promising results. We aim to create a user-friendly and low cost ocular surface reconstruction procedure that will be an alternative to current treatments. The advantages of our strategy are that it will not require cell culture or tissue preparation, as is the case for usual tissue-based grafts. Hopefully this technique could extend to clinical studies and could one day be used as an ocular surface reconstruction procedure.


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