Tissue adhesive hyaluronic acid hydrogels for sutureless stem cell delivery and regeneration of corneal epithelium and stroma
Research output: Contribution to journal › Article › Scientific › peer-review
Regeneration of a severely damaged cornea necessitates the delivery of both epithelium-renewing limbal epithelial stem cells (LESCs) and stroma-repairing cells, such as human adipose-derived stem cells (hASCs). Currently, limited strategies exist for the delivery of these therapeutic cells with tissue-like cellular organization. With the added risks related to suturing of corneal implants, there is a pressing need to develop new tissue adhesive biomaterials for corneal regeneration. To address these issues, we grafted dopamine moieties into hydrazone-crosslinked hyaluronic acid (HA-DOPA) hydrogels to impart tissue adhesive properties and facilitate covalent surface modification of the gels with basement membrane proteins or peptides. We achieved tissue-like cellular compartmentalization in the implants by encapsulating hASCs inside the hydrogels, with subsequent conjugation of thiolated collagen IV or laminin peptides and LESC seeding on the hydrogel surface. The encapsulated hASCs in HA-DOPA gels exhibited good proliferation and cell elongation, while the LESCs expressed typical limbal epithelial progenitor markers. Importantly, the compartmentalized HA-DOPA implants displayed excellent tissue adhesion upon implantation in a porcine corneal organ culture model. These results encourage sutureless implantation of functional stem cells as the next generation of corneal regeneration.