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J Biomed Mater Res A. 2012 Mar;100(3):613-21. doi: 10.1002/jbm.a.33284. Epub 2011 Dec 30.

Collagen fibril diameter and alignment promote the quiescent keratocyte phenotype.

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Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, University of California, San Francisco, California 94158, USA.


In this study, we investigated how matrix nanotopography affects corneal fibroblast phenotype and matrix synthesis. To this end, corneal fibroblasts isolated from bovine corneas were grown on collagen nanofiber scaffolds of different diameters and alignment--30 nm aligned fibrils (30A), 300 nm or larger aligned fibrils (300A), and 30 nm nonaligned fibrils (30NA) in comparison with collagen coated flat glass substrates (FC). Cell morphology was visualized using confocal microscopy. Quantitative PCR was used to measure expression levels of six target genes: the corneal crystallin-transketolase (TKT), the myofibroblast marker-α-smooth muscle actin (SMA), and four matrix proteins-collagen 1 (COL1), collagen 3 (COL3), fibronectin (FN), and biglycan. It was found that SMA expression was down-regulated and TKT expression was increased on all three collagen nanofiber substrates, compared with the FC control substrates. However, COL3 and biglycan expression was also significantly increased on 300A, compared with the FC substrates. Thus matrix nanotopography down-regulates the fibrotic phenotype, promotes formation of the quiescent keratocyte phenotype, and influences matrix synthesis. These results have significant implications for the engineering of corneal replacements and for promoting regenerative healing of the cornea after disease and/or injury.

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