The conjunctival epithelium plays an important role in ensuring the optical clarity of the cornea by providing lubrication to maintain a smooth, refractive surface, by producing mucins critical for tear film stability and by protecting against mechanical stress and infectious agents. A large number of disorders can lead to scarring of the conjunctiva through chronic conjunctival inflammation. For controlling complications of conjunctival scarring, surgery can be considered. Surgical treatment of symblepharon includes removal of the scar tissue to reestablish the deep fornix. The surgical defect is then covered by the application of a tissue substitute. One obvious limiting factor when using autografts is the size of the defect to be covered, as the amount of healthy conjunctiva is scarce. These limitations have led scientists to develop tissue engineered conjunctival equivalents. A tissue engineered conjunctival epithelial equivalent needs to be easily manipulated surgically, not cause an inflammatory reaction and be biocompatible. This review summarizes the various substrates and membranes that have been used to culture conjunctival epithelial cells during the last three decades. Future avenues for developing tissue engineered conjunctiva are discussed.
This item's license is: Attribution 4.0 International