Lucia Brunel

Stanford

“Cell-laden collagen hydrogels for corneal tissue engineering”

Corneal blindness affects more than 12.5 million people worldwide, yet less than 2% of patients have access to the human donor tissue needed for its conventional treatment. Furthermore, current laboratory-made constructs are insufficient due to lack of long-term transparency and underwhelming regenerative capacity. Recent studies suggest that cell therapies using transplanted corneal mesenchymal stromal cells help prevent corneal scar formation and restore corneal transparency. To propel this strategy toward clinical translation, both an effective cell delivery system and a precise understanding of their regenerative effects will be required. 3D bioprinting is a promising technique for creating customizable corneal constructs for implantation. We have developed a 3D printable, bioorthogonally crosslinked collagen hydrogel that achieves the key requirements for corneal tissue engineering to restore vision. The collagen hydrogels are highly transparent, maintain their geometry by resisting cell-induced contraction, and promote the regenerative phenotype of encapsulated human corneal mesenchymal stromal cells. These bioprinted constructs demonstrate potential as corneal tissue replacements as an alternative to transplantation of cadaveric human corneas, which are severely limited in supply.

ABSTRACT

The demand for human donor tissue for the treatment of corneal blindness far outpaces the supply, necessitating an innovative bioengineered approach for corneal regeneration. My research aims to recapitulate the unique structural, optical, and biological features of the human cornea, toward the goal of restoring vision on-demand with bioengineered tissue.
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