The vitreous humor of the eye is mainly composed of fibrillary collagen and semiflexible hyaluronic acid (HA). To mimic this macromolecular composition of the vitreous, we previously developed an injectable two-component hydrogel composed of a fibrillary gellan and a semiflexible polyelectrolyte, poly[methacrylamide-co-(methacrylic acid)], both endowed with thiol cross-linkers. We optimized the hydrogel formulations for optical, physical, mechanical, and transport properties approximating those of the vitreous. Here, we studied 11 hydrogel formulations with varying concentrations of each component, and, as expected, we found that they all swelled in physiological solution. The two formulations that most closely matched the vitreous properties were investigated further. Judged against nonsurgical control and silicone oil, a clinically accepted vitreous replacement, both hydrogel formulations were biocompatible in rabbits for 30 days. Both hydrogels maintained optical clarity, physiological intraocular pressure, and intact retinal layers that displayed normal electroretinography. The swelling behavior of the gel led us to postulate that the native vitreous may also exhibit controlled swelling, where ionic HA's swelling capacity is restricted by fibrillary collagen. In conclusion, the two hydrogels merit further in vivo evaluation as an artificial vitreous for an extended duration and additionally in mini-pigs for their similarity to human eyes in size.
- vitreous humor