New Biomimetic Directions in Regenerative Ophthalmology

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One of the most complete and permanent ways of treating many causes of visual impairment and blindness is to replace the entire affected tissue with pre-cultured ocular tissues supported and maintained on biomaterial frameworks. One direction towards enhancing ocular tissue regeneration on biomaterials, in the laboratory is by applying biomimicry. Specifically to engineer biomaterials with important functional elements of the native extracellular matrices, such as topography, that support and organise cells into coherent tissues. Further problems in regenerative ophthalmology can be potentially solved through application of biomimicry. They include, more efficient ways of moving and transplanting cultivated tissues into correct therapeutic locations inside the eye and scar-less, non-destructive healing of surgical incisions and wounds, to repair structural integrity of tissues at the ocular surface. Two examples are given to show this potential for redeveloping an ocular epithelium onto a nanostructured insect wing surface and producing an origami membrane modelled on deployable structures in nature. Efforts to harness natural innovation will eventually provide unique designs and structures that cannot for now be made synthetically, for regeneration of clinically acceptable ocular tissues.

New biomimetic materials and structures are needed in regenerative ophthalmology to orchestrate ocular tissue repair and reconstruction accurately, rapidly and completely. An alternative biomimicry approach is discussed in this Review, aimed at harnessing structures directly from nature that possess the right sets of features and functions to solve key problems in ophthalmology—such as regrowing retinal pigment epithelium on cicada wing derived nanostructures.

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