To assess ultrastructural alterations to the corneal endothelium, eye drops containing (1) vehicle alone or (2) vehicle plus 0.004% thimerosal with or without 0.1% disodium ethylenediaminetetraacetate (Na2EDTA) were administered hourly over a 2-day period to rabbit corneasin vivo.Twenty of the corneas received a 5-mm keratectomy that removed epithelium and superficial stroma and 10 corneas were left intact. The vehicle alone had no effect on the endothelium of normal corneas. Thimerosal drops with or without Na2EDTA caused some clarification of the cytoplasm and dilatation of the endoplasmic reticulum of endothelial cells. The mitochondria had dilated cristae and membrane condensations. After keratectomy and vehicle only drops, the central endothelium showed a marked increase in microvilli and mitochondrial changes. Addition of either thimerosal or thimerosal plus Na2EDTA resulted in a slight decrease in membrane activity but an increase in intracellular edema and dilatation and damage to organelles. The peripheral areas were less affected than the center. Although the endothelium was stressed, most changes were considered reversible.
Received October 17, 1985; revision received August 11, 1986.
* Optometrist, Ph.D., Member of Faculty, F.A.A.O.
H. Barry Collin
School of Optometry
The University of New South Wales
P.O. Box 1, Kensington
New South Wales
© 1987 American Academy of Optometry