PURPOSE:The aim of this study was to investigate high-molecular-weight hyaluronan (HA-HMW) corneal protection against sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)-induced toxic effects with in vitro and in vivo experimental approaches.METHODS:In vitro experiments consisted of a human corneal epithelial cell line incubated with HA-HMW, rinsed, and incubated with SLS. Cell viability, oxidative stress, chromatin condensation, caspase-3, -8, -9, and P2X7 cell death receptor activation, interleukin-6, and interleukin-8 production were investigated. In vivo experiments consisted of 36 New Zealand white rabbits treated for 3 days, 3 times per day, with HA-HMW or phosphate-buffered salt solution. At day 4, eyes were treated with SLS. Clinical observation and in vivo confocal microscopy using the Rostock Cornea Module of the Heidelberg Retina Tomograph-II were performed to evaluate and to compare SLS-induced toxicity between eyes treated with HA-HMW and eyes treated with phosphate-buffered salt solution.RESULTS:In vitro data indicate that exposure of human corneal epithelial cells to HA-HMW significantly decreased SLS-induced oxidative stress, apoptosis, and inflammation cytokine production. In vivo data indicate that SLS cornea injuries, characterized by damaged corneal epithelium, damaged anterior stroma, and inflammatory infiltrations, were attenuated with HA-HMW treatment.CONCLUSIONS:A good correlation was seen between in vitro and in vivo findings showing that HA-HMW decreases SLS-induced toxic effects and protects cornea.