Background: Poly(2-hydroxyethyl methacrylate) sponges are artificial tissue-equivalent matrices with potential value as materials for the peripheral zone of artificial corneas. A keratoprosthetic device was developed incorporating a poly(HEMA) spongy skirt which allowed cellular invasion. The present in vivo study investigated the biosynthetic activity of stromal fibroblasts growing within a poly(HEMA) sponge implanted into the rabbit cornea.
Methods: A porous poly(HEMA) hydrogel was synthesized by polymerization in a large excess of water. Specimens with a pore size larger than 10 microns were impregnated with collagen type I and then implanted into the limbal region of cornea in four rabbits. The animals were followed clinically for 28 days, when they were anaesthetized and new sponge specimens were implanted in their second eye. After 2 h, both eyes were enucleated. The 28-day and 2-h explants were subjected to autoradiographic analysis following labelling with tritiated proline and to an immunostaining technique using antibodies to collagen types I-VI.
Results: The autoradiographic analysis showed that the fibroblasts within the 28-day explants continued to be synthetically active and deposited proteins. Using the immunostaining technique, the deposition was most clearly demonstrated by the localization of collagen type III in the tissue invading the sponge. Both techniques failed to indicate any cellular activity in the short-time implants.
Conclusions: The presence of collagen type III is consistent with a normal healing response of the stromal fibroblasts and indicates that poly(-HEMA) sponges are able to function as tissue-equivalent matrices.