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New biomaterials from lens crystallin proteins for corneal tissue engineering

21 months
Approved budget:
Dr Laura Domigan
Health issue:
Proposal type:
Emerging Researcher First Grant
Lay summary
Corneal replacement is becoming increasingly common as the age of the population increases and there is an insufficient supply of donor corneas. In New Zealand, >250 corneal transplants are performed per annum. There is a growing need for new technologies to generate corneal analogs. Tissue engineering involves the combination of a biomaterial scaffold with cells to create an implant that supports host tissue regeneration. Biomaterials from natural polymers (such as proteins) offer advantages such as increased biocompatibility and often maintenance of the unique properties of the native protein. This project is to manufacture human corneal replacements from structural proteins (crystallins) derived from fish eye lenses - where they are responsible for maintaining lens transparency. The lenses are currently a low value by-product of the NZ fishing industry and we propose to recycle the crystallin proteins from them, and use them as high value biomaterials.