Tissue-cultured corneal epithelial transplantation is a novel procedure that uses tissue-cultured epithelial cells to restore severely damaged ocular surfaces. In this study, we used tissue-cultured human limbal and amniotic epithelial cells as donor cells to investigate the feasibility of this procedure for reestablishment of a damaged ocular surface in experimental conditions.
Primary human limbal epithelial cultures were established from banked limbal tissue. Amniotic epithelial cells were isolated from serologically screened human placenta and maintained in a specialized nutrient medium. Suspended cells (5 × 105/ml) were seeded onto the concave surface of collagen corneal shields and incubated at 37°C for 2–3 days. These cell-covered shields were then placed on a denuded stromal surface in organ culture and on New Zealand albino rabbit ocular surfaces that had the native epithelium previously removed. Specimens were collected 24, 48, 72, and 96 h later from organ-cultured corneal buttons and recipient animals, processed, and evaluated histologically.
The cells grown on the collagen shield were spread uniformly and unpolarized after 48 h in culture. They were repolarized and tightly adhered to the recipient corneal stroma 24 h after transplantation, as demonstrated by formation of cell-substrate hemidesmosomes (HDs) and donor-specific antigen immunostaining. The donor cells were retained in six of 15 rabbits receiving limbal cells and four of 12 rabbits receiving amniotic cells for as long as 10 days after surgery. Conclusion. Cultured human limbal and amniotic epithelial cells can be successfully transplanted onto a denuded corneal surface where they adhere tightly to underlying stroma by hemidesmosomes.
© 1999 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.