Due to donor shortage, <5% of corneal blindness cases are treated by corneal transplantations. Aside from transplantation, other standards of treatment include cyanoacrylate glue and tissue grafting. However, cyanoacrylate glue is associated with low biocompatibility, poor transparency, rough surface, difficult handling, and poor integration with corneal tissues. Likewise, grafting requires donor tissues, advanced surgical skills, and specialized equipment. They are both imperfect methods.
Natural biopolymers provide excellent biocompatibility, although have low adhesion. Synthetic biopolymers are customizable but may not lead to tissue regeneration. Ideally, a biocompatible adhesive hydrogel for corneal tissue repair is needed.
To address this need, researchers have developed a new biocompatible and transparent bioadhesive for corneal reconstruction: GelCORE. It is made of a chemically modified form of gelatin and photoinitiators, and successfully mimicked the mechanical properties of the cornea and comprised a chemically modified form of hydrolyzed collagen.
After testing, GelCORE revealed higher tissue adhesion compared to commercial adhesives. GelCORE also facilitated easy delivery to the cornea. In vivo experiments showed it can effectively seal corneal defects and induce stromal regeneration and re-epithelialization.
GelCORE is low-cost and easily produced and used, making it a promising bioadhesive for corneal repair.
Sani ES, Kheirkhah A, Rana D, et al. Sutureless repair of corneal injuries using naturally derived bioadhesive hydrogels. NPJ Regen Med. 2018;5(3):eaav1281. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aav1281.