Confocal Microscopy and Albumin Penetration into Contact Lenses
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PURPOSE: To develop a novel in vitro method to detect the depth of penetration of the tear film protein albumin into contact lens materials using confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM). METHODS: A poly-HEMA-based hydrogel (etafilcon A) and a silicone hydrogel material (lotrafilcon B) were examined. In vitro, bovine serum albumin (BSA) was labeled with 5-(4,6-dichloro-s-triazin-2-ylamino) fluorescein hydrochloride (DTAF). The lenses were incubated in this protein solution (0.5 mg/ml) at 37 degrees C. After 1 and 7 days incubation, the lenses were examined using CLSM (Zeiss 510, config. META 18) and the location of the fluorescently labeled BSA was identified. RESULTS: BSA adsorption on the surface and penetration into the lens matrix occurred at a higher concentration for etafilcon compared to lotrafilcon (p < 0.001). For both materials, BSA was detected on the surface after 1 day of incubation. Significant levels of BSA were detected within the matrix of etafilcon after as little as 1 day (p < 0.001), but no BSA was detected in the matrix of lotrafilcon at any time (p > 0.05). CONCLUSION: CLSM can be successfully used to examine the depth of penetration of fluorescently labeled proteins into various hydrogel polymers. Our results show that etafilcon lenses both adsorb BSA on the surface and absorb BSA within the matrix, whereas lotrafilcon B adsorbs small amounts of BSA on the surface only.