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A. Vieira, K. Forward, A. Yu, C. Kim, G. Harocopos, I. R. Schwab; In vivo Silk Fibroin Biocompatibility. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2010;51(13):4872.
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Silk has been used as a biomaterial for a number of medical applications. Corneal diseases comprise a significant portion of causes of blindness worldwide. Unfortunately, availability of good quality donor corneas remains a challenge in some countries. To date, an ideal material for a corneal replacement device has not been demonstrated. Silk has shown potential to serve as a scaffold for corneal tissue regeneration. The immune response to silk in the eye has not been evaluated previously. This is a pilot study in which we analyze the biocompatibility of silk fibroin with the eye in vivo.
2 mm silk fibroin discs were surgically implanted into rabbits’ eyes. The animals were divided into 3 groups, according to the eye structure into which the discs were placed: corneal stroma, anterior chamber and subconjunctival space. Each group consisted of 3 control and 5 test rabbits. The controls underwent the same surgical procedures, but did not have silk discs implanted. Animals were observed for 60 days. They were then euthanized and the eyes enucleated for histopathology.
Slit lamp examination (Figure) and histopathological evaluation of the explants revealed minimal inflammation. Small silk fibroin discs did not seem to induce significant inflammatory reaction in the test eyes. Further investigation about larger size inserts is under way.
We believe that silk fibroin is inert within the rabbit eye. This pilot study helped us establish surgical techniques and supports the use of silk as a potential biomaterial for future applications in Ophthalmology.
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