: There are no quantitative studies on the uptake of alkali into corneal tissues. To study this phenomenon, both type I collagen and bovine corneas were incubated in sodium hydroxide (NaOH) under varying conditions for periods up to 27.5 h. The sorption (absorption or adsorption) of the alkali to protein and tissue was measured as the quantity of NaOH no longer available for titration to neutrality with hydrochloric acid. Sorption was found to be dependent on the concentration of NaOH (0.01-1 N) but independent of the incubation temperature (4-35[degrees]C). In whole cornea, sorption of 1 N NaOH began immediately and increased with time up to 6 h. After 6 h, sorption decreased, together with the observed degradation and solubilization of the tissue. Stripping of the corneal endothelium alone or of the endothelium and epithelium increased sorption in a similar manner when compared to whole corneas for periods up to 4 h. These observations are compatible with ionic and nonionic bonding of hydroxide ions to collagen (including that of the cornea) and the subsequent release of hydroxide ions during hydrolysis of the protein itself. Indirect evidence also suggests the inclusion of quantities of unbound hydroxide ions in hydrated gels of glycosaminoglycans. It is proposed that in a chemical burn of the cornea, alkali is both stored in the tissue (by sorption) and reacted with it (by hydrolysis), without any net consumption of alkali taking place.
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