A biological-inspired support frame for an artificial cornea
Bilateral corneal blindness represents a quarter of the total blind, world-wide. The artificial cornea in assorted forms, was developed to replace opaque non-functional corneas and to return sight in otherwise hopeless cases that were not amenable to corneal grafts; believed to be 2% of corneal blind. Despite technological advances in materials design and tissue engineering no artificial cornea has provided absolute, long-term success. Formidable problems exist, due to a combination of unpredictable wound healing and unmanageable pathology. To have a solid guarantee of reliable success an artificial cornea must possess three attributes: an optical window to replace the opaque cornea; a strong, long term union to surrounding ocular tissue; and the ability to induce desired host responses. A unique artificial cornea possesses all three functional attributes- the Osteo-odonto-keratoprosthesis (OOKP). The OOKP has a high success rate and can survive for up to twenty years, but it is complicated both in structure and in surgical procedure; it is expensive and not universally available. The aim of this project was to develop a synthetic substitute for the OOKP, based upon key features of the tooth and bone structure. In doing so, surgical complexity and biological complications would be reduced. Analysis of the biological effectiveness of the OOKP showed that the structure of bone was the most crucial component for implant retention. An experimental semi-rigid hydroxyapatite framework was fabricated with a complex bone-like architecture, which could be fused to the optical window. The first method for making such a framework, was pressing and sintering of hydroxyapatite powders; however, it was not possible to fabricate a void architecture with the correct sizes and uniformity of pores. Ceramers were synthesised using alternative pore forming methods, providing for improved mechanical properties and stronger attachment to the plastic optical window. Naturally occurring skeletal structures closely match the structural features of all forms of natural bone. Synthetic casts were fabricated using the replamineform process, of desirable natural artifacts, such as coral and sponges. The final method of construction by-passed ceramic fabrication in favour of pre-formed coral derivatives and focused on methods for polymer infiltration, adhesion and fabrication. Prototypes were constructed and evaluated; a fully penetrative synthetic OOKP analogue was fabricated according to the dimensions of the OOKP. Fabrication of the cornea shaped OOKP synthetic analogue was also attempted.