Collagen Crosslinking for Keratoconus: Cellular Signaling Mechanisms

Date
2023-05-16
Authors
Karamichos, Dimitrios
Nicholas, Sarah E.
Khan, Asher
Riaz, Kamran M.
ORCID
0000-0002-8761-3824 (Karamichos, Dimitrios)
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Publisher
MDPI
Abstract

Collagen crosslinking (CXL) is a widely used treatment to halt the progression of keratoconus (KC). Unfortunately, a significant number of patients with progressive KC will not qualify for CXL, including those with corneas thinner than 400 microm. The present study aimed to investigate the molecular effects of CXL using in vitro models, mirroring the normal, as well as thinner corneal stroma seen in KCs. Primary human corneal stromal cells were isolated from healthy (HCFs) and keratoconus (HKCs) donors. Cells were cultured and stimulated with stable Vitamin C resulting in 3D self-assembled extracellular matrix (ECM), cell-embedded, constructs. CXL was performed on (a) thin ECM with CXL performed at week 2 and (b) normal ECM with CXL performed at week 4. Constructs without CXL served as controls. All constructs were processed for protein analysis. The results showed modulation of Wnt signaling, following CXL treatment, as measured by the protein levels of Wnt7b and Wnt10a, correlated to the expression of alpha-smooth muscle actin (SMA). Further, the expression of a recently identified KC biomarker candidate, prolactin-induced protein (PIP), was positively impacted by CXL in HKCs. CXL-driven upregulation of PGC-1 and the downregulation of SRC and Cyclin D1 in HKCs were also noted. Although the cellular/molecular impacts of CXL are largely understudied, our studies provide an approximation to the complex mechanisms of KC and CXL. Further studies are warranted to determine factors influencing CXL outcomes.

Description
Citation
Karamichos, D., Nicholas, S. E., Khan, A., & Riaz, K. M. (2023). Collagen Crosslinking for Keratoconus: Cellular Signaling Mechanisms. Biomolecules, 13(4), 696. https://doi.org/10.3390/biom13040696