Vitrectomy is a common procedure for treating ocular-related diseases. The surgery involves removing the vitreous humor from the center of the eye, and vitreous substitutes are needed to replace the vitreous humor after vitrectomy. In the present study, we developed a colorless, transparent and injectable hydrogel with appropriate refractive index as a vitreous substitute. The hydrogel is formed by oxidated hyaluronic acid (oxi-HA) cross-linked with adipic acid dihydrazide (ADH). Hyaluronic acid (HA) was oxidized by sodium periodate to create aldehyde functional groups, which could be cross-linked by ADH. The refractive index of this hydrogel ranged between 1.3420 and 1.3442, which is quite similar to human vitreous humor (1.3345). The degradation tests demonstrated that the hydrogel could maintain the gel matrix over 35 days, depending on the ADH concentration. In addition, the cytotoxicity was evaluated on retina pigmented epithelium (RPE) cells cultivated following the ISO standard (tests for in vitro cytotoxicity), and the hydrogel was found to be non-toxic. In a preliminary animal study, the oxi-HA/ADH hydrogel was injected into the vitreous cavity of rabbit eyes. The evaluations of slit-lamp observation, intraocular pressure, cornea thickness and histological examination showed no significant abnormal biological reactions for 3 weeks. This study suggests that the injectable oxi-HA/ADH hydrogel should be a potential vitreous substitute.
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