Keratoprosthesis is an artificial cornea that is surgically implanted in the eye to replace damaged cornea, correcting corneal blindness. Keratoprosthesis offers a unique solution that eliminates the possible rejection of donor cornea, a common problem with keratoplasty. The design used currently for this procedure is Boston Keratoprosthesis (KPro), but it has some flaws. Boston KPro needs donor cornea for its design, which is in high demand and short supply. The design is also open to the environment, creating a pathway for bacteria to enter the eye and cause permanent damage. My research through the Research Experience and Apprenticeship Program (REAP) at the University of New Hampshire involved creating a new artificial cornea that fixes both of these issues. I started fabricating a cornea out of silk fibroin and gelatin, called a hydrogel, to replace the need for donor cornea. These hydrogels were tested using a rheometer and a scanning electron microscope for the stiffness, mechanical strength, and porousness of the structure, as these qualities have to be similar to a real cornea. It was a success. We created hydrogels that replicated the characteristics of a human cornea and fixed the issues Boston KPro has. REAP was a great opportunity to explore my interests in bioengineering while potentially changing peoples’ lives.
UNH Undergraduate Research Journal
Kyung Jae Jeong
Durham, NH: Hamel Center for Undergraduate Research, University of New Hampshire
Boudreau, Ryann, "Looking into the Eye with REAP" (2019). Inquiry Journal. 4.