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Corneal injury is a major cause of impaired vision around the globe. The fine structure of the corneal stroma plays a pivotal role in the phenotype and behavior of the embedded cells during homeostasis and healing after trauma or infection. In order to study healing processes in the cornea, it is important to create culture systems that functionally mimic the natural environment. Collagen solution was vitrified on top of a grated film to achieve thin collagen films with parallel microgrooves. Keratocytes (corneal stromal cells) were cultured on the films either as a single layer or as stacked layers of films and cells. SEM and F-actin staining were used to analyze the pattern transference onto the collagen and the cell orientation on the films. Cell viability was analyzed with MTS and live/dead staining. Keratocytes, fibroblasts, and myofibroblasts were cultured to study the pattern's effect on phenotype. A microstructured collagen film-based culture system that guides keratocytes (stromal cells) to their native, layerwise perpendicular orientation in 3D and that can support fibroblasts and myofibroblasts was created. The films are thin and transparent enough to observe cells at least three layers deep. The cells maintain viability in 2D and 3D cultures and the films can support fibroblast and myofibroblast phenotypes. The films provide an easily reproducible stroma model that maintains high cell viability and improves the preservation of the keratocyte phenotype in keratocytes that are differentiated to fibroblasts.


Juha Prittinen, Xin Zhou, Fouzia Bano, Ludvig Backman, Patrik Danielson. Microstructured collagen films for 3D corneal stroma modelling. Connective tissue research. 2022 Sep;63(5):443-452

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PMID: 34894951

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