RiTe Conjugate Mediated Corneal Collagen Crosslinking

A novel therapeutic intervention for keratoconus - In vitro and in vivo study.

Harsha Rohira, Sujithra Shankar, Shikha Yadav, Priyanka P Srivastava, Shilpi Minocha, Pravin K Vaddavalli, Sushmita G Shah, Archana Chugh

Corneal collagen crosslinking (CXL) is an effective method to halt the disease progression of keratoconus, a progressive corneal dystrophy leading to cone shaped cornea. Despite the efficacy of standard protocol, the concerning step of this procedure is epithelial debridement performed to facilitate the entry of riboflavin drug. Riboflavin, a key molecule in CXL protocol, is a sparsely permeable hydrophilic drug in corneal tissues. 

The present study has employed cell penetrating peptide (CPP), Tat2, to enhance the penetration of riboflavin molecule, and thereby improve currently followed CXL protocol. 

This study demonstrates approximately two-fold enhanced uptake of CPP riboflavin conjugate, Tat2 riboflavin-5'Phosphate (RiTe conjugate), both in vitro and in vivo. Two different CXL protocols (Epi ON and Epi OFF) have been introduced and implemented in rabbit corneas using RiTe conjugate in the present study. The standard and RiTe conjugate mediated CXL procedures exhibited an equivalent extent of crosslinking in both the methods. Reduced keratocyte loss and no endothelial damage in RiTe conjugate mediated CXL further ascertains the safety of the proposed CXL protocols. 

Therefore, RiTe conjugate mediated CXL protocols present as potential alternatives to the standard keratoconus treatment in providing equally effective, less invasive and patient compliant treatment modality.