by Hannah J. Levis, Gary S. L. Peh, Kah-Peng Toh, Rebekah Poh, Alex J. Shortt, Rosemary A. L. Drake, Jodhbir S. Mehta, Julie T. Daniels
Current treatments for reversible blindness caused by corneal endothelial cell failure involve replacing the failed endothelium with donor tissue using a one donor-one recipient strategy. Due to the increasing pressure of a worldwide donor cornea shortage there has been considerable interest in developing alternative strategies to treat endothelial disorders using expanded cell replacement therapy. Protocols have been developed which allow successful expansion of endothelial cells in vitro but this approach requires a supporting material that would allow easy transfer of cells to the recipient. We describe the first use of plastic compressed collagen as a highly effective, novel carrier for human corneal endothelial cells. A human corneal endothelial cell line and primary human corneal endothelial cells retained their characteristic cobblestone morphology and expression of tight junction protein ZO-1 and pump protein Na+/K+ ATPase a1 after culture on collagen constructs for up to 14 days. Additionally, ultrastructural analysis suggested a well-integrated endothelial layer with tightly opposed cells and apical microvilli. Plastic compressed collagen is a superior biomaterial in terms of its speed and ease of production and its ability to be manipulated in a clinically relevant manner without breakage. This method provides expanded endothelial cells with a substrate that could be suitable for transplantation allowing one donor cornea to potentially treat multiple patients.