The identification of biomaterials that are well tolerated in the eye is important for the development of new ocular drug delivery devices and implants, and the application of micro- and nanoengineered devices to biomedical treatments is predicated on the long-term preservation within the target organ or tissue of the very small functional design elements. This study assesses the ocular tolerance and durability of micro- and nanostructured biopolymer thin films injected or implanted into the rabbit eye. Structured poly(caprolactone) (PCL) thin films were placed in adult rabbit eyes for survival studies, with serial ophthalmic examinations over 6 months. Morphologic abnormalities and device/tissue reactions were evaluated by histologic studies, and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) of films was used to determine the structural integrity. Structured PCL thin films (20- to 40-μm thick) were constructed to design specifications with 50-μm linear microgrooves or arrays of nanopores with ~30-nm diameters. After up to 9 months of ocular residency, SEM on devices retrieved from the eye showed preservation of micro- and nanostructural features. In ocular safety evaluations carried out over 6 months, serial examinations in 18 implanted eyes showed no evidence of chronic inflammation, cataractogenesis, or retinal toxicity. Postoperative ocular inflammation was seen in 67% of eyes for 1 week, and persistent corneal edema occurred in 1 eye. Histology revealed no ocular inflammation or morphologic abnormalities of ocular tissues. Thin-film/tissue responses such as cellular reaction, fibrosis, or surface biodeposits were not seen. Micro- and nanostructured PCL thin films exhibited acceptable ocular tolerance and maintained the structural integrity of design features while residing in the eye. Thin-film micro- and nanostructured PCL appears to be a feasible biomaterial for intraocular therapeutic applications.
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