Ultrathin chitosan–poly(ethylene glycol) hydrogel films for corneal tissue engineering Academic Article uri icon


  • Due to the high demand for donor corneas and their low supply, autologous corneal endothelial cell (CEC) culture and transplantation for treatment of corneal endothelial dysfunction would be highly desirable. Many studies have shown the possibility of culturing CECs in vitro, but lack potential robust substrates for transplantation into the cornea. In this study, we investigate the properties of novel ultrathin chitosan-poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) hydrogel films (CPHFs) for corneal tissue engineering applications. Cross-linking of chitosan films with diepoxy-PEG and cystamine was employed to prepare ~50 μm (hydrated) hydrogel films. Through variation of the PEG content (1.5-5.9 wt.%) it was possible to tailor the CPHFs to have tensile strains and ultimate stresses identical to or greater than those of human corneal tissue while retaining similar tensile moduli. Light transmission measurements in the visible spectrum (400-700 nm) revealed that the films were >95% optically transparent, above that of the human cornea (maximum ~90%), whilst in vitro degradation studies with lysozyme revealed that the CPHFs maintained the biodegradable characteristics of chitosan. Cell culture studies demonstrated the ability of the CPHFs to support the attachment and proliferation of sheep CECs. Ex vivo surgical trials on ovine eyes demonstrated that the CPHFs displayed excellent characteristics for physical manipulation and implantation purposes. The ultrathin CPHFs display desirable mechanical, optical and degradation properties whilst allowing attachment and proliferation of ovine CECs, and as such are attractive candidates for the regeneration and transplantation of CECs, as well as other corneal tissue engineering applications.


  • Ozcelik, Berkay
  • Brown, Karl D
  • Blencowe, Anton
  • Daniell, Mark
  • Stevens, Geoff W
  • Qiao, Greg G

publication date

  • May 2013