Purpose: Scleral crosslinking by the photosensitizer riboflavin and ultraviolet A (UVA) has been shown to increase significantly the scleral biomechanical rigidity and might therefore become a possible sclera-based treatment modality for progressive myopia. In the present study, the long-term effect of the new crosslinking method on biomechanical properties was investigated in the rabbit sclera.
Methods: A 10 x 10 mm sector of the equatorial sclera of nine Chinchilla rabbit eyes was treated in vivo using a UVA double diode of 370 nm with a surface irradiance of 3 mW/cm(2) and application of 0.1% riboflavin-5-phosphate drops as photosensitizer for 30 min. Three days, 4 months and 8 months postoperatively, biomechanical stress-strain measurements of the treated scleral strips were performed and compared to contralateral control sclera using a microcomputer-controlled biomaterial tester. In addition, routine histological controls were performed.
Results: Following the crosslinking treatment, Young's modulus was increased by 320% after 3 days, 277% after 4 months and 502% after 8 months, and ultimate stress by 341% after 3 days, 131% after 4 months and 213.8% after 8 months versus the controls. The decrease in ultimate strain was between 24% and 44.8%. On histology, no tissue damage was detected.
Conclusion: Our new method of scleral collagen crosslinking proved very effective and constant over a time interval of up to 8 months in increasing the scleral biomechanical strength. Therefore, the new treatment might become an option for strengthening scleral tissue in progressive myopia and other conditions associated with weakened sclera. There were no side-effects on the retina or retinal pigment epithelium. The new crosslinking treatment could now be tested in a suitable myopia model (like the tree shrew) and finally in human eyes.