Antigen-presenting cells (APCs) play an important role in transplant rejection and tolerance. In high-risk corneal transplantation, where the graft bed is inflamed and vascularized, immature APCs in the donor corneal stroma quickly mature and migrate to lymphoid tissues to sensitize host T cells. In this study, using a mouse model of corneal transplantation, we investigated whether enrichment of tolerogenic APCs (tolAPCs) in donor corneas can enhance graft survival in corneal allograft recipients with inflamed graft beds. Treatment of donor corneas with interleukin-10 (IL-10) and transforming growth factor-β1 (TGFβ1) altered the phenotype and function of tissue-residing APCs. Transplantation of these tolAPC-enriched corneas decreased frequencies of interferon gamma (IFNγ)(+) effector T cells (Teffs), as well as allosensitization in the hosts, diminished graft infiltration of CD45(+) and CD4(+) cells, and significantly improved corneal allograft survival compared to saline-injected controls. These data provide a novel approach for tolAPC-based immunotherapy in transplantation by direct cytokine conditioning of the donor tissue.
Ideally, biomaterials designed to play specific physical and physiological roles in vivo should comprise components and microarchitectures analogous to those of the native tissues they intend to replace. For that, implantable biomaterials need to be carefully designed to have the correct structural and compositional properties, which consequently impart their bio-function. In this study, we showed that the control of such properties can be defined from the bottom-up, using smart surface templates to modulate the structure, composition, and bio-mechanics of human transplantable tissues. Using multi-functional peptide amphiphile-coated surfaces with different anisotropies, we were able to control the phenotype of corneal stromal cells and instruct them to fabricate self-lifting tissues that closely emulated the native stromal lamellae of the human cornea. The type and arrangement of the extracellular matrix comprising these corneal stromal Self-Lifting Analogous Tissue Equivalents (SLATEs) were then evaluated in detail, and was shown to correlate with tissue function. Specifically, SLATEs comprising aligned collagen fibrils were shown to be significantly thicker, denser, and more resistant to proteolytic degradation compared to SLATEs formed with randomly-oriented constituents. In addition, SLATEs were highly transparent while providing increased absorption to near-UV radiation. Importantly, corneal stromal SLATEs were capable of constituting tissues with a higher-order complexity, either by creating thicker tissues through stacking or by serving as substrate to support a fully-differentiated, stratified corneal epithelium. SLATEs were also deemed safe as implants in a rabbit corneal model, being capable of integrating with the surrounding host tissue without provoking inflammation, neo-vascularization, or any other signs of rejection after a 9-months follow-up. This work thus paves the way for the de novo bio-fabrication of easy-retrievable, scaffold-free human tissues with controlled structural, compositional, and functional properties to replace corneal, as well as other, tissues.
Purpose: To screen for and characterize compounds that protect corneal endothelial cells against unfolded protein response (UPR) and oxidative stress. Methods: Bovine corneal endothelial cells (BCECs) were treated for 48 hours with 640 compounds from a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drug library and then challenged with thapsigargin or H2O2 to induce UPR or oxidative stress, respectively. Cell viability was measured using the CellTiter-Glo survival assay. Selected "hits" were subjected to further dose-response testing, and their ability to modulate expression of UPR and oxidative stress markers was assessed by RT-PCR, Western blot, and measurement of protein carbonyl and 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine (8-OHdG) adducts in immortalized human corneal endothelial cells (iHCECs). Results: Forty-one drugs at 20 μM and 55 drugs at 100 μM increased survival of H2O2-challenged cells, and 8 drugs at 20 μM and 2 drugs at 100 μM increased survival of thapsigargin-challenged cells, compared with untreated control cells. Nicergoline, ergothioneine, nimesulide, oxotremorine, and mefenamic acid increased survival of both H2O2- and thapsigargin-challenged cells. Oxotremorine altered DNA damage inducible 3 (CHOP) gene expression, glucose-regulated protein 78 kDa (GRP78) and activating transcription factor 4 (ATF4) protein expression, and protein carbonyl and 8-OHdG levels. Mefenamic acid altered GRP78 protein expression and protein carbonyl and 8-OHdG levels. Conclusions: Oxotremorine and mefenamic acid are potential survival factors for corneal endothelial cells under UPR and oxidative stress. The described assay can be further expanded to screen additional drugs for potential therapeutic effect in corneal endothelial diseases such as Fuchs' endothelial corneal dystrophy.
Th17 cells are principal mediators of many autoimmune conditions. Recently, memory Th17 cells have been revealed as crucial in mediating the chronicity of various refractory autoimmune disorders; however, the underlying mechanisms maintaining memory Th17 cells have remained elusive. Here, using a preclinical model of ocular autoimmune disease we show that both IL-7 and IL-15 are critical for maintaining pathogenic memory Th17 cells. Neutralization of these cytokines leads to substantial reduction of memory Th17 cells; both IL-7 and IL-15 provide survival signals via activating STAT5, and IL-15 provides additional proliferation signals via activating both STAT5 and Akt. Topical neutralization of ocular IL-7 or IL-15 effectively reduces memory Th17 cells at the inflammatory site and draining lymphoid tissues, while topical neutralization of IL-17 alone, the major pathogenic cytokine secreted by Th17 cells, does not diminish memory Th17 cells at the draining lymphoid tissues. Our results suggest that the effective removal of pathogenic memory Th17 cells via abolishing environmental IL-7 or IL-15 is likely to be a novel strategy in the treatment of autoimmune diseases.
Specific factors from the corneal epithelium underlying the stimulation of stromal fibrosis and myofibroblast formation in corneal wound healing have not been fully elucidated. Given that exosomes are known to transfer bioactive molecules among cells and play crucial roles in wound healing, angiogenesis, and cancer, we hypothesized that corneal epithelial cell-derived exosomes may gain access to the underlying stromal fibroblasts upon disruption of the epithelial basement membrane and that they induce signaling events essential for corneal wound healing. In the present study, exosome-like vesicles were observed between corneal epithelial cells and the stroma during wound healing after corneal epithelial debridement. These vesicles were also found in the stroma following anterior stromal keratectomy, in which surgical removal of the epithelium, basement membrane, and anterior stroma was performed. Exosomes secreted by mouse corneal epithelial cells were found to fuse to keratocytes in vitro and to induce myofibroblast transformation. In addition, epithelial cell-derived exosomes induced endothelial cell proliferation and ex vivo aortic ring sprouting. Our results indicate that epithelial cell-derived exosomes mediate communication between corneal epithelial cells and corneal keratocytes as well as vascular endothelial cells. These findings demonstrate that epithelial-derived exosomes may be involved in corneal wound healing and neovascularization, and thus, may serve as targets for potential therapeutic interventions.