Critical media attributes in E-beam sterilization of corneal tissue. Acta Biomater 2022;138:218-227.Abstract.
When ionizing irradiation interacts with a media, it can form reactive species that can react with the constituents of the system, leading to eradication of bioburden and sterilization of the tissue. Understanding the media's properties such as polarity is important to control and direct those reactive species to perform desired reactions. Using ethanol as a polarity modifier of water, we herein generated a series of media with varying relative polarities for electron beam (E-beam) irradiation of cornea at 25 kGy and studied how the irradiation media's polarity impacts properties of the cornea. After irradiation of corneal tissues, mechanical (tensile strength and modulus, elongation at break, and compression modulus), chemical, optical, structural, degradation, and biological properties of the corneal tissues were evaluated. Our study showed that irradiation in lower relative polarity media improved structural properties of the tissues yet reduced optical transmission; higher relative polarity reduced structural and optical properties of the cornea; and intermediate relative polarity (ethanol concentrations = 20-30% (v/v)) improved the structural properties, without compromising optical characteristics. Regardless of media polarity, irradiation did not negatively impact the biocompatibility of the corneal tissue. Our data shows that the absorbed ethanol can be flushed from the irradiated cornea to levels that are nontoxic to corneal and retinal cells. These findings suggest that the relative polarity of the irradiation media can be tuned to generate sterilized tissues, including corneal grafts, with engineered properties that are required for specific biomedical applications. STATEMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE: Extending the shelf-life of corneal tissue can improve general accessibility of cornea grafts for transplantation. Irradiation of donor corneas with E-beam is an emerging technology to sterilize the corneal tissues and enable their long-term storage at room temperature. Despite recent applications in clinical medicine, little is known about the effect of irradiation and preservation media's characteristics, such as polarity on the properties of irradiated corneas. Here, we have showed that the polarity of the media can be a valuable tool to change and control the properties of the irradiated tissue for transplantation.