Researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas have conducted research that may result in discovering a treatment for irreparable eye injuries.
Corneal keratocytes are innately coded to react and begin the healing process in the event of an eye injury. This natural healing process can fail, resulting in scarring and blindness. Scientists are still trying to understand why.
A new study by a University of Texas at Dallas bioengineer, Dr David Schmidtke, seeks to solve that mystery. Schmidtke and his research group have exhibited a technique for fabricating tiny strands of collagen called fibrils, to facilitate further research on the eye’s repair process. The method was detailed in a new study published in the December issue of the journal Biomedical Microdevices.
“How keratocytes repair tissue and why, in some cases, they leave scar tissue, is not well understood,” said Schmidtke, professor of bioengineering in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science.
Schmidtke continued: “We came up with a way to mimic an injury model, so we can look at how the cells respond when there is a wound.”
The study was funded, in part, by a $1.8m (~€1.6m), five-year National Institutes of Health grant that Schmidtke received last summer to develop new ways to study the eye’s healing mechanisms—knowledge that may lead to new therapies and treatments.
The University of Texas Dallas research draws on Schmidtke’s expertise in microfluidic devices, which are palm-sized pieces of transparent plastic that contain small channels about the size of a strand of human hair. He is using these devices to fabricate the fibrils.
Schmidtke’s research team, which includes undergraduate and graduate students, injects collagen into the channels. The collagen polymerises as it flows through the channels, resulting in aligned fibrils that are similar in structure to the collagen fibrils that are present in corneal tissue.