To investigate histopathologic, immunohistochemical, and electron microscopic findings in 8 keratoplasty specimens with a history of corneal collagen crosslinking
(CXL) for keratoconus
. Five new (hitherto unreported) and 3 previously published specimens were analyzed.
Corneal buttons of 8 keratoconus
corneas (5–114 months after CXL) were compared with 5 keratoconus
specimens without CXL and 5 normal corneas for morphological alterations. Corneal buttons were evaluated by light microscopy and immunohistochemistry
using antibodies against CD34, PGP 9.5, nestin, telomerase reverse transcriptase, and Ki67 as well as by transmission electron microscopy
corneas after CXL showed a significant keratocyte loss (except 1 specimen with an increased keratocyte number), whereas keratoconus
corneas without CXL revealed a higher keratocyte density compared with healthy controls. Keratocyte loss could be clinically correlated with corneal opacification and corneal perforation. In corneas after CXL, the remaining keratocytes appeared more polymorphic and revealed a different expression of surface markers similar to keratocytes in corneal scars. The presence of proteoglycans, nerves, and endothelial cells was unaffected by CXL.
CXL may cause permanent keratocyte loss or repopulation of altered keratocytes, resulting in clinical complications such as corneal opacification or perforation. Despite its good safety profile and high effectiveness in progressive keratoconus
, CXL should be performed in accordance with current guidelines strictly adhering to protocol and safety standards.