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Immunology and Infection

Porcine Corneal Tissue Explant to Study the Efficacy of Herpes Simplex Virus-1 Antivirals

Published: September 20th, 2021



1Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago, 2Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Illinois at Chicago

We describe the use of a porcine cornea to test the antiviral efficacy of experimental drugs.

Viruses and bacteria can cause a variety of ocular surface defects and degeneration such as wounds and ulcers through corneal infection. With a seroprevalence that ranges from 60-90% worldwide, the Herpes Simplex Virus type-1 (HSV-1) commonly causes mucocutaneous lesions of the orofacial region which also manifest as lesions and infection-associated blindness. While current antiviral drugs are effective, emergence of resistance and persistence of toxic side-effects necessitates development of novel antivirals against this ubiquitous pathogen. Although in vitro assessment provides some functional data regarding an emerging antiviral, they do not demonstrate the complexity of ocular tissue in vivo. However, in vivo studies are expensive and require trained personnel, especially when working with viral agents. Hence ex vivo models are efficient yet inexpensive steps for antiviral testing. Here we discuss a protocol to study infection by HSV-1 using porcine corneas ex vivo and a method to treat them topically using existing and novel antiviral drugs. We also demonstrate the method to perform a plaque assay using HSV-1. The methods detailed may be used to conduct similar experiments to study infections that resemble the HSV-1 pathogen.

People suffering from ocular infections often incur vision loss1. With a high seroprevalence worldwide, HSV infected individuals suffer from recurring eye infections which lead to corneal scarring, stromal keratitis and neovascularization2,3,4,5. HSV infections have also shown to cause less frequently, a range of serious conditions among immunocompromised, untreated patients like encephalitis and systemic morbidity6,7,8. Drug....

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All the porcine tissue used in this study was provided by a third-party private organization and none of the animal handling was performed by University of Illinois at Chicago personnel.

1. Materials

  1. Reagents
    1. Use following reagents for Plaque assay: powder methylcellulose, Dulbecco's modified eagle's medium (DMEM), fetal bovine serum (FBS), penicillin and streptomycin (P/S) for Plaque assay.
    2. Use crystal violet tablets and ethanol (mol.......

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To understand the efficacy of the experimental antivirals, they need to be tested extensively before they are sent for in vivo human clinical trials. In this regard, positive control, negative control and test groups have to be identified. Trifluorothymidine (TFT) has long been used as the preferred treatment to treat herpes keratitis topically16. Used as a positive control, the TFT treated corneal groups show lower infection spread. As a negative control, we used DMSO or vehicle control dissolved.......

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Prior research has shown BX795 to have a promising role as an antiviral agent against HSV-1 infection; by inhibiting the TANK-binding kinase 1 (TBK1)16. Both TBK1 and autophagy have played a role in helping inhibit HSV-1 infection as demonstrated on human corneal epithelial cells. BX795 was shown to be maximally effective with antiviral activity at a concentration of 10µM and using both western blot analysis and viral plaque analysis of key viral proteins, BX795 was shown to inhibit HSV-1 inf.......

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This study was supported by NIH grants (R01 EY024710, RO1 AI139768, and RO1 EY029426) to D.S. A.A. was supported by an F30EY025981 grant from the National Eye Institute, NIH.Study was conducted using the porcine corneas obtained from Park Packing company, 4107 Ashland Avenue, New City, Chicago, IL-60609


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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
30 G hypodermic needles. BD 305128
500 mL glass bottle. Thomas Scientific 844027
Antimycotic and Antibiotic (AA) GIBCO 15240096 Aliquot into 5 mL tubes and keep frozen until use
Benchtop vortexer. BioDot BDVM-3200
Biosafety cabinet with a Bio-Safety Level-2 (BSL-2) certification. Thermofisher Scientific Herasafe 2030i
Calgiswab 6" Sterile Calcium Alginate Standard Swabs. Puritan 22029501
Cell scraper - 25 cm Biologix BE 70-1180 70-1250
Crystal violet Sigma Aldrich C6158 Store the powder in a dark place
Dulbecco’s modified Eagle’s medium - DMEM GIBCO 41966029 Store at 4 °C until use
Ethanol Sigma Aldrich E7023
Fetal bovine serum -FBS Sigma Aldrich F2442 Aliquot into 50 mL tubes and keep frozen until use
Flat edged tweezers – 2. Harward Instruments 72-8595
Freezers --80 °C. - Thermofisher Scientific 13 100 790
Fresh box of blades. Thomas Scientific TE05091
Guaze Johnson & Johnson 108 square inch folder 12 ply
HSV-1 17GFP grown in house - Original strain from Dr. Patricia Spears, Northwestern University. GFP expressing HSV-1 strain 17
Insulin, Transferrin, Selenium - ITS GIBCO 41400045 Aliquot into 5 mL tubes and keep frozen until use
Magnetic stirrer. Thomas Scientific H3710-HS
Metallic Scissors. Harward Instruments 72-8400
Micropipettes 1 to 1000 µL. Thomas Scientific 1159M37
Minimum Essential Medium - MEM GIBCO 11095080 Store at 4 °C until use
OptiMEM  GIBCO 31985047 Store at 4 °C until use
Penicillin/streptomycin. GIBCO 15140148 Aliquot into 5 mL tubes and keep frozen until use
Phosphate Buffer Saline -PBS GIBCO 10010072 Store at room temperature
Porcine Corneas Park Packaging Co., Chicago, IL 0 Special order by request
Procedure bench covers - as needed. Thermofisher Scientific S42400
Serological Pipettes Thomas Scientific P7132, P7127, P7128, P7129, P7137
Serological Pipetting equipment. Thomas Scientific Ezpette Pro
Stereoscope Carl Zeiss SteREO Discovery V20
Stirring magnet. Thomas Scientific F37120
Tissue culture flasks, T175 cm2. Thomas Scientific T1275
Tissue culture incubators which can maintain 5% CO2 and 37 °C temperature. Thermofisher Scientific Forma 50145523
Tissue culture treated plates (6-well). Thomas Scientific T1006
Trypsin-EDTA (0.05%), phenol red GIBCO 25-300-062 Aliquot into 10 mL tubes and keep frozen until use
Vero cells American Type Culture Collection ATCC CRL-1586

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