The brief TEER (trans-epithelial electrical resistance) assay after exposing chemicals to corneal epithelium in vivo is known as a suitable method for evaluating corneal irritancy and permeability quantitatively and continuously. A collagen vitrigel membrane we previously developed is a thin (about 20 μm thick) and transparent membrane composed of high density collagen fibrils equivalent to connective tissues in vivo, e.g. corneal Bowman's membrane. To develop such a TEER assay system in vitro utilizing a human corneal epithelial model, HCE-T cells (a human corneal epithelial cell line) were cultured on the collagen vitrigel membrane substratum prepared in a Millicell chamber suitable for TEER measurement. Human corneal epithelium model possessing 5-6 cell layers sufficient for TEER assay was successfully reconstructed on the substratum in the Millicell chamber by culturing the cells in monolayer for 2 days and subsequently in air-liquid interface for 7 days. The exposure of chemicals to the model induced the time-dependent relative changes of TEER in response to the characteristic of each chemical within a few minutes. These results suggest that the TEER assay using the human corneal epithelial model is very useful for an ocular irritancy evaluation as an alternative to the Draize eye irritation test.
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