Establishment of a bi-layered tissue engineered conjunctiva using a 3D-printed melt electrowritten poly-(ε-caprolactone) scaffold

Jiajun Xie, Qi Gao, Zelmira Nuñez del Prado, Nandini Venkateswaran, Hazem M. Mousa, Enrique Salero, Juan Ye, Elena M. De Juan-Pardo, Alfonso L. Sabater, Victor L. Perez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: To utilize melt electrowriting (MEW) technology using poly-(ε-caprolactone) (PCL) coupled with a 2-step co-culturing strategy for the development of a conjunctival bi-layer synthetic construct. Methods: Melt electrowritten scaffolds using PCL were fabricated using an in-house-built MEW printer. Human conjunctival stromal cells (CjSCs) and epithelial cells (CjECs) were isolated from donor tissue. A 2-step co-culture method was done by first seeding the CjSCs and culturing for 4 weeks to establish a stromal layer, followed by CjECs and co-culturing for 2 more weeks. Cultured cells were each characterized by morphology and marker expression on immunofluorescence and qPCR. The produced construct was assessed for cellular proliferation using viability assays. The bi-layer morphology was assessed using scanning electron microscopy (SEM), confocal microscopy, and immunofluorescence imaging. The expression of extracellular matrix components and TGF-b was evaluated using qPCR. Results: CjSCs were spindle-shaped and vimentin + while CjECs were polygonal and CK13 +. CjSCs showed consistent proliferation and optimal adherence with the scaffold at the 4-week culture mark. A 2-layered construct consisting of a CjSC-composed stromal layer and a CjEC-composed epithelial layer was appreciated on confocal microscopy, SEM, and immunofluorescence. CjSCs secreted collagens (types I, V, VI) but at differing amounts from natural tissue while TGF-b production was comparable. Conclusion: The 3D-printed melt electrowritten PCL scaffold paired with the 2-step co-culturing conditions of the scaffold allowed for the first approximation of a bi-layered stromal and epithelial reconstruction of the conjunctiva that can potentially improve the therapeutic arsenal in ocular surface reconstruction.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Ophthalmology
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Aug 2022
Externally publishedYes


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